|U.Va. professors have traveled to Downing College at Cambridge University (above) on the Thomas Jefferson Fellowship for 33 years.
Faculty: Apply by March 9
Applications for the spring 2006 Thomas Jefferson Fellowship at Downing College are due by March 9. With the exception of the Nursing School and Curry School, U.Va. professors from all schools are eligible for the exchange. Send a brief proposal of plans and a current curriculum vitae to Deidre Davie, Office of the Vice President and Provost, P.O. Box 400308, firstname.lastname@example.org. Two copies of the application are required: one hard copy and one electronic copy. A letter of support from a Cambridge University colleague is welcome and should be submitted electronically. Downing College makes the final selection from proposals submitted by the U.Va. provost’s office. Under the agreement each institution financially supports its own faculty. Eligible U.Va. faculty must have a paid sabbatical from their school, a sponsored research grant, a sesquicentennial associateship or funding from the dean. Funds are available from the provost’s office to partially cover the cost of accommodations.
Professors earn ‘Downing’ time at Cambridge
Academic, cultural exchange a tradition between U.Va. and Downing College
By Jane Ford
Thomas E. Hutchinson, a U.Va. professor of systems and information engineering, knew the first thing he was going to do when he arrived at Cambridge University’s Downing College: buy a bicycle.
Hutchinson has been to Cambridge for extended periods five times, and has come to know not only the school’s academic and research offerings but also the culture of the community— nearly everyone travels on bike or foot in the pedestrian-oriented town.
This semester he has returned for his second stint as a Thomas Jefferson Visiting Fellow at Downing College. An expert in computer eye gaze control and analysis, Hutchinson is spending the semester with a team of experts and student researchers at Cambridge’s Autism Research Center. There, he is lending his expertise to a project to develop a set of studies of eye movements for the early detection of autism in very young children.
Hutchinson, or “Hutch” as his U.Va. students call him, likes to work with students on an informal basis. He said his biggest challenge across the pond is to convince the Cambridge students to use the moniker. There, the more formal title of professor is the norm. However, informality “creates a rapport” that is “essential to good research and teaching,” he said.
The professor exchange program between Downing and U.Va. began in 1976, and TJ fellows have gone to Downing every year with the exception of 1987 and 2003.
Former Commonwealth Professor of History David Shannon was the first Thomas Jefferson Fellow at Downing. He divided his sabbatical between Downing and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in northern Italy, where he wrote a book on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relationship with Congress.
In 1977, Downing fellow and religion scholar Peter Brooks reciprocated the exchange. He spent a semester at U.Va. researching a book about German theologian and Reformation leader Martin Luther, both in Alderman Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. He also taught a U.Va. graduate student history seminar and was a visiting lecturer at other U.S. institutions.
In the U.Va.-Downing arrangement, fellows are not required to teach. Instead, they take time off from their normal routines to write and pursue research.
“The demands of teaching often do not leave uninterrupted time for professors to stand back and evaluate teaching and focus on research,” said Wynne Stuart, associate provost for academic support and classroom management. “Recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Fellowship at Downing College return praising the unique and supportive atmosphere in which to reflect.”
Architecture Professor Edward Ford used his time at Downing last year to begin a new book, “Detailing as a Subversive Activity.” Easy access to the Royal Institute of British Architecture in London, an important major collection of architectural drawings, as well as trips to Holland and Paris were critical to his research. Throughout the years, visits to Cambridge whetted his appetite to learn more about the town and university.
“I share common interests with the School of Architecture there,” Ford said. But a big draw was the time it provided to study in detail “the physical variety of the architecture and the ensemble — the way all the parts work together,” he added.
Associate professor of music Elizabeth Hudson found the Cambridge University Library and London’s Royal Opera House archives terrific resources for her research on singers and the performance of Verdi’s II Corsaro when she visited in 1995. She also enjoyed all the musical performances available at the university. “King’s College Cambridge is an amazing place for musical performance,” so becoming a fellow was “a great opportunity,” Hudson said.
For the architect and nonarchitect alike, living amongst the ensemble of institutions that make up the predominately pedestrian city — gated colleges, research centers and commercial enterprises — is a cultural exchange in itself. Another is the experience of living “in college” and being part of the Downing community.
In addition to a flat, TJ fellows enjoy dining privileges at High Table in the Hall. A short stroll across the paddock, where in good weather Downing students play football or sit and talk, leads one to the Fellows Garden, where fellows gather to enjoy croquet on a warm spring evening before dinner. After-dinner discussions occur in the Senior Combination Room, a faculty lounge where there is an opportunity for intellectual and cultural exchanges.
When Ford visited in the spring of 2004, Downing fellows were eager to discuss current events in Iraq and the U.S. presidential election.
Listening to the King’s College a capella singers while sitting on the banks of the Cam as the sun sets and the singers drift downstream on a raft, or watching the Downing crew team compete in the Bumps races on the river are examples of other types of traditions and experiences that invigorate fellows’ creative minds.
A SNAPSHOT OF PAST THOMAS JEFFERSON FELLOWS
|Architecture professor Warren Boeschensein researched the early 20th century town planning English Garden Movement. “There are many lessons to be learned for American community development considering other alternatives beside the auto.”
||Sociology professor emeritus Murray Milner praised the opportunity and the leisure to gain a perspective and think about his research for the recently released book “Freaks, Geeks and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools and the Culture of Consumption.”
|“It’s nice to feel a part of Cambridge,” said French professor Marva Barnett, who used her time to gather research for a comparative study between American, British and French students in reflective thinking in the humanities.
||Associate Professor of Architecture Earl Mark combined his fellowship at Downing with a visiting associateship at the Martin Centre of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture where he furthered his research in computer visualization.