As I begin my tenure as the new Director of the Comparative History of Ideas, I feel a tremendous sense of honor, responsibility and excitement. And to be fully truthful, I am more than a little nervous. I am aware that CHID is a special place, that it was built with impassioned intelligence and commitment, and that it is sustained by a kind of collaborative spirit among undergraduates, faculty, staff, graduate students, and community members; qualities that make this a place unlike any other on campus. This means that I have a big responsibility. Fortunately, it also means that this responsibility is one that we all share. I look forward to working with all of you to continue the distinctive and innovative work we do so well, and to also find new directions in which CHID can grow stronger.
CHID has received terrific recognition in recent years. I can’t think of any unit that has as many award-winning students, staff, and faculty as we do. But what I really love about CHID is that these awards, nice as they are, do not represent the metric for our success. We succeed to the extent that our courses constitute challenging and enriching places for co-thinking, we are a strong program to the extent that our students feel that they are the agents of their own education, we provide a good education to the extent that we prepare students to join that great global conversation about why the world is the way that it is, and what we can do to make it better. And we provide a terrific interdisciplinary learning environment as long as we find exciting and engaging ways to put many kinds of knowledges in conversation. So CHID will be the place where students can learn about Hegel and Indigenous intellectuals, Nietzsche and critical animal studies, Deleuze and Guattari and Dolly Parton.
I am confident that we will continue to do all these things, and do them well. But I am also aware that we have challenges to consider. We have done a great job of building a unique learning environment at the UW, but we have some work to do in building bridges with other units. We have attracted an incredible number of students, but with a small number of faculty instructors and staff it might perhaps be time to think about how high enrollments might be over-stretching our capacities. We pioneered international education at UW, but now that we are not alone in offering these kinds of opportunities we have to show what is distinctive about a CHID approach to global education.
We will sit down soon and talk about all these issues and more. I just wanted to let you know that I am honored to be the director of such a special program.
María Elena García