Herbst Update Newsletter

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From the Director, Leland Giovannelli

Another academic year has begun—full of eager hopes and excitement. New students are wandering about the Engineering Center, trying not to look lost. Returning students and teachers are doing exactly the same thing, sometimes—but they are better at hiding their disorientation.   

Remembering Athanasios Moulakis

For the Herbst Program, this school year begins with sad news about Thanasi—that is, about Athanasios Moulakis, the founding director of the Herbst Program. I am very sorry to report that Thanasi died this past summer.

Thanasi was an extraordinary individual -- brilliant, passionate, erudite, witty, and utterly charming. He was fluent in multiple languages, a student of many cultures, and an intrepid traveler. He used to mock the “pita-fajita” mentality (his phrase!) that extended no further than the shopping-mall food court.  His own globalism was much deeper: a native of Greece, he had studied and/or taught in France, Germany, Italy, England, Switzerland and the United States. Towards the end of his life, he served as president of universities in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Truly, he was a citizen of the world.

He was a lively conversationalist, with a mind that ranged freely across centuries and disciplines. Dynamic and demanding, with an infectious enthusiasm for learning, he inspired students and colleagues alike. He was irreplaceable, and we will miss him.

>> Read a longer obituary.
>> Share your memories of Thanasi for a future newsletter

Other Program Landmarks 

Our two newest hires, Andrea Kowalchuk and Paul Diduch, have completed their first year. They are excellent teachers, generous colleagues and strong supporters of the Great Books tradition. In short, they fit right in with the other Herbsters! Check the faculty updates page for the latest news.        

Wayne Ambler retired at the end of May. He is now Professor Emeritus Ambler, and he is busy writing about Rome and tending his garden. He misses the intellectual interplay of teaching, but is, on the whole, delighted with retirement!

Joel Swanson, who runs the Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) Program in ATLAS, has joined Herbst. His teaching and service will mostly be centered in ATLAS, but one of his courses each year will be cross-listed with Herbst. Joel will help us stay in touch with the world of hi-tech modern creativity.

Scholarship Opportunities 

Here at Herbst, we are thinking of ways in which to commemorate two of our past directors, Thanasi Moulakis and Wayne Ambler, and we could use your help.

An Ambler Scholarship for our Maymester course, Culture Wars in Rome. Wayne Ambler, now enjoying his first "semester" of retirement, designed this course and led it for nine years. He worked hard to keep prices low for his students, typically by sidestepping travel agencies and negotiating prices in fluent Italian. It seems perfectly appropriate then, to establish a Culture Wars scholarship in his name—perhaps the Ambler Culture Warrior Fund. We have not yet decided how it should operate, and we would like suggestions. Should we try to give each student a small scholarship, or give a few students medium-sized ones, or one student a free trip? Should we offer it for further study, either in Italy or in Italian? Past Culture Warriors, what do you think? And would you be willing to contribute to such a fund?

Moulakis Fund. How could such a fund best commemorate Thanasi? It might support a speaker series or an annual symposium; it might pay a full-time faculty salary or bring in a visiting scholar for a year; it might reward excellent teaching with funds or course releases. Please send your thoughts about what might be most appropriate—and please consider giving to this fund as a tribute to this amazing person.      

Herbst Course Updates

Pilot ESL Course. As the college grows, it is attracting greater and greater numbers of international students. Most have very good spoken and written English skills, but some find that their language skills put them at a tremendous disadvantage in both engineering and Herbst courses. 
Herbst has taken a small step toward addressing this problem by piloting an international version of its popular first-year seminar, HUEN 1010. All of its 10 students are non-native English speakers. The first semester of the course will be team-taught by Leland Giovannelli and Anja Lange, while subsequent semesters will be taught by one instructor and an in-class TA. The books and assignments are the same as or equivalent to those in the other 1010 seminars, but this section has even more writing and more re-writing. Students have a greater opportunity for conversation: in class, when each teacher works with a group of five, and out of class, at a required weekly conference with one of the instructors.
The books and assignments will be equivalent to the ones read in the other 1010 seminars, but this section will have more re-writing, additional shorter writing assignments, grammar exercises when necessary and more chance for in-class conversation. Students will also attend a weekly one-on-one conference with an instructor.
The pilot course has been funded by a generous grant from the Engineering Excellence Fund (EEF). The EEF, a student-run organization in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, gives funds to “to create an excellent and innovative environment for engineering education.” Thank you, EEF! 
Culture Wars in Rome. Wayne Ambler created this course and led it for nine wonderful years. Since 2013, the course has been led by Priscilla Craven of the Department of French and Italian. Priscilla has done a terrific job at Culture Wars, but our new Herbst faculty members, Paul Diduch and Andrea Kowalchuk, are eager to take on the teaching of this course. Paul and Andrea have formidable preparation in Roman texts and history, but they need to learn the on-site part of the course. Paul will therefore serve as Priscilla’s assistant on Culture Wars 2016, both to learn about Rome and to benefit from Priscilla’s experience. Then, in 2017, Paul and Andrea will take over the course.

Faculty Search

The College keeps growing, and Herbst is growing with it. This semester, Herbst is teaching four lecture courses and 22 seminars (13 sections of HUEN 1010 and nine sections of HUEN 3100). They regularly draw on part-time teachers to meet demand but would rather hire full-timers who can give undivided attention to their Herbst courses. They are therefore starting another search this fall in the hopes of filling two full-time instructor positions. 
Are you curious about the small lecture courses this semester? Here they are: Odyssey of the Greek Mind; Engineering, Science and Society; Meaning and Morality since Darwin; and History of Western Medicine. 

Alumni Notes

What happens to Herbsters once they leave the College of Engineering and Applied Science? Where are you now, and how did you get there? We asked two alumni for updates. 
Cory Oldweiler
When I was a CU engineering student, there was always an answer, one a finite effort would delineate. But life proved a less soluble puzzle. I changed my goal, aiming to become the contemplative, probing polymath advocated by the Herbst program and epitomized in the Olympian mind of Thanasi. For a time I sought to educate both myself and the public through journalism. Then I fled north where, amid stints cooking, splitting firewood, refinishing floors, waiting tables and tending bar, I hesitantly embraced my fate as a writer, a field that allows me to explore, to learn, to teach, and to pretend as if perhaps I am finally figuring it out. In the winters I wander, often returning to Florence, Italy, for a month or three. The initial result is my novel “Testimony of the Senses,” a billet-doux to the arts and an exploration of how we craft identity and justify faith.
Cory remembers Thanasi: On a visit to Boulder after graduation, I stopped in to see Thanasi and to share with him impressions of my first trip to Europe. At some point I casually mentioned that I had been jazzed by the musicality of a Stuart Davis painting hung in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Thanasi was incensed that I had wasted my time on something which could be found in America, instead of communing longer with Titian and Tintoretto in Venetian churches. It was a valid argument, and I found myself apologizing. The next time I went to Venice, I did not go near the Guggenheim lest he somehow find out.
Lucky Vidmar
I left CU in 1997 with two computer science degrees and the full Herbst experience. I then spent several wonderful years on a U.S. Geological Survey team developing new technical ways to respond to earthquakes and tsunamis. Fulfilling my mom’s prediction that engineering is not the optimal career for me, I ended up going to law school, graduating in 2004. Today, I represent high-tech and engineering companies as a partner in the Denver law office of Hogan Lovells. I also serve as the Honorary Consul of Slovenia in Denver, helping promote closer ties between Colorado and Slovenia. These days, in my spare time, I am involved in something different altogether: running for the CU Board of Regents. I did not predict that my career would span engineering, law, diplomacy, and politics. But I credit Herbst for it all.
Lucky remembers Thanasi: I had dinner with a business contact recently. We were talking about what a true engineering education should be, and I told him about my time at Herbst and about Thanasi. Once, at the end of a spring semester, Thanasi told me how he planned to spend the summer sitting under the tree at his place in Florence, and reading Plato in Greek. It was nice to reminisce ... and then, the next morning, I learned he was gone. 

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