The Herbst Program of Humanities faculty have won more than 28 teaching awards and citations, including two Boulder Faculty Assembly Teaching Excellence Awards, a SOAR alumni relations award, a Best Should Teach award, and two Dean's Awards for Outstanding Teaching in the College. They come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds, with doctoral degrees in romance languages and literatures, political science, comparative literature, history of science, and classical philology.
Learn more about the Herbst faculty, including contact information, by clicking on the names below to expand each profile.
Associate Professor Emeritus
Associate Professor Emeritus Wayne Ambler has retired from teaching, but he retains an active interest in the Herbst Program and in his research. The latter focuses especially but not exclusively on ancient Greek political philosophy and, in particular, on the case for philosophic knowledge in the face of claims of supra-rational wisdom. He thus is now working on Plato’s Euthyphro and the Ion, where these issues are joined. For rather different reasons he is also studying Giambattista Vico’s New Science, and he hopes later to write on Rome, where he lived and taught for a decade.
Office: LESS 206
As someone with widely ranging interests in the Humanities, I am very excited to be joining the Herbst Program. Like the interdisciplinary approach the Herbst courses foster, I have benefitted from an education crossing several disciplinary boundaries. I have degrees in Film Studies and Art History, Political Science, and a unique graduate degree combining Philosophy, Classics, Politics, Literature, and Theology. I am a firm believer in the value of a Humanities education, and I’m attracted to the Herbst Program because it offers a rare opportunity to show the Humanities in their best light: as an invaluable source of illumination and guidance to the questions and problems that are of enduring importance to us as engineers, scientists, citizens, and human beings.
My current research is focused on the works of Plato. I have published on Plato’s Crito, and am working on a manuscript that explores the theoretical problems that motivated Socrates’ famous turn away from natural science toward inquiry into human phenomena. I seek to understand the nature of Socrates’ skepticism about natural science, the extent to which the problems that prompted his turn are relevant to science today, and whether Socrates’ human wisdom is an adequate basis for the aspirations of a rational life.
I have taught widely in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Most recently, I completed a postdoctoral teaching fellowship at Carthage College, where I taught courses in Philosophy, Intellectual History, and the Western Heritage core curriculum. Part of my duties at Carthage included reaching out to other disciplines and engaging faculty in conversation about the great works of Western art, poetry, and philosophy. I regard it as a privilege to bring the Humanities into dialogue with other departments of learning, and I look forward to using my experience to engage and learn alongside CU’s students of applied science.
Office: ECOT 413
Scot Douglass has enjoyed teaching in the Herbst Program since 1995. Born and raised the son of an electrical engineer in Chicago, he studied genetics as an undergraduate (University of Arizona), theology as a master's student (Dallas Seminary), and earned his PhD in comparative literature (CU-Boulder). "I love sitting down with a handful of bright engineering students to explore great expressions of the human spirit…to listen to engineering students wrestle with the serious questions of our existence." Committed to making literature both accessible and relevant, Scot’s research interests are in philosophical hermeneutics (how texts mean what they mean), language’s ability to communicate meaning, the Classical tradition and the intersections of literature, philosophy, psychology and theology in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is currently working on a book on Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and previously published a book on post-modern readings of fourth-century language theories (Theology of the Gap: Cappadocian Language Theory and the Trinitarian Controversy), co-edited two volumes (one on Gregory of Nyssa’s Contra Eunomium II and the other on the role of time in theorizing reading strategies of ancient texts), as well as numerous articles.
Scot has taught in a variety of contexts: chemistry and physics in a private high school, ancient Greek and literature at a college in Ghana, West Africa, and literary thinking classes for professional engineers at Hewlett-Packard facilities in Loveland and Fort Collins. Very concerned with the art of teaching, Scot attempts to make the Herbst Seminar a productive, interactive learning space within which students wrestle with the text, each other and him. This commitment to teaching has resulted in a number of awards and opportunities: the campus-wide 2003 Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence in Teaching Award; the 2010 Student Affairs Faculty Member of the Year; and being named a President’s Teaching Scholar in 2013. He is the founding Director of the Engineering Honors Program and the Andrews Hall Residential College where he lives with his family.
Office: Lesser House, Rm 205
I feel fortunate to have found in the interdisciplinary Herbst Program of Humanities, its faculty and students, a home for my own wide-ranging interests as reflected in my education, travels, job history, and publications. I pursued undergraduate work in Latin (University of Colorado Boulder), studied law (Georgetown University Law School), and earned an MA in modern European history (Columbia University), a second MA in ancient Greek and a PhD in classical philology (University of Texas-Austin, with one year at the Freie Universität, Berlin). The places I have lived include Rome, Bologna, Berlin, Hamburg, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Austin, Texas. While I enjoyed all these cities, Austin was probably my favorite, partly because of its music. My second favorite job after teaching was as a bike messenger in Washington, D.C. and New York City - a constant adrenaline rush that kept me in great shape! At the University of Colorado Boulder before joining the Herbst Program, I taught a variety of classical (i.e., Greco-Roman) civilization, history, and language courses as well as advanced critical writing on a variety of subjects in the humanities and engineering. I have published on Roman comedy, Greek epic poetry, Greek lyric poetry, Greek myth and ritual, and film. The sum of all these experiences, I believe, helped to prepare me for the Herbst Program, whose curriculum combines disciplines and whose mission is to foster in its students a love of the humanities as complementary to engineering. While engineering and other sciences contribute to our material and technological well-being, as the New York Times war correspondent and social critic Chris Hedges observes, the discipline of the humanities “forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of … [our own] assumptions.”
Director & Senior Instructor
Office: Lesser House, Rm 202
Before coming to the Herbst Program in 1989, Leland Giovannelli taught for 10 years: six years at a private high school teaching mathematics, history, philosophy, literature and writing; and four years at a private college, teaching the same broad range of material, but in exclusively discussion-based classes. This background helped shape her commitment to discussion-based learning; the Herbst Program gave her the opportunity to put her commitment into practice. As one of the original members of the Herbst teaching staff, she was able to concentrate on helping students develop the related arts of critical reading, group learning, and careful writing.
After spending six years (1989-1995) in the Herbst Program, Leland decided to pursue her graduate education at the University of Chicago. In June of 1999, she earned her doctorate there in the history of science. She returned to Colorado and to the Herbst Program as quickly as possible, and she is thrilled to be back teaching humanities to engineering students.
Her interests include Aristotle studies; ancient medical and biological science; classical history and literature; the history of science and technology; the history of the motorcycle; opera; black and white film; jazz of the 1930s through the 1950s; and popular music from the 1940s to the 1960s. She tries to work these interests into her curricula whenever possible.
Office: LESS 206
Andrea Kowalchuk comes to CU-Boulder from a small private university just outside of Chicago where she taught philosophy and interdisciplinary courses to undergraduates. Before that she studied philosophy, literature, and politics in Texas and Canada, focusing in particular on questions surrounding the common good, civic education and liberal education. She is very excited to bring her interdisciplinary background to the Herbst seminar room, and to join such a dedicated and impressive faculty.
Office: ECOT 523
How can Plato, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Melville and T.S. Eliot help Herbst students become better engineers? For more than a decade, Anja has taught literature as a vehicle of insight into other fields, as well as the subject of focus in its own right. Prior to joining the faculty in the Herbst Program in the fall of 2001, she taught German as a foreign language to a diverse student body at language institutes in Hamburg, as well as German language and literature, humanities, English, and women’s studies courses at the University of Colorado.
Many of the great writers in history were also philosophers, artists, mathematicians, and even engineers. Anja believes that the synergy found in an interdisciplinary study, in this case of literature by engineers, promotes a greater understanding of the human condition. Insight into the community that engineers are trained to serve is a core principle of her approach to literature in the Herbst Program, but in support of, rather than at the expense of pure enjoyment of literary works for their own sake. She is also interested in enriching the learning experience through non-traditional approaches, such as service learning and activity-based learning.
Anja received a BA in American and French literature at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and earned an MA and PhD in comparative literature at the University of Colorado in 2000. Her research interests include travel literature, literature of the sea, and American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Outside the classroom she enjoys taking in the beautiful Colorado landscape from the back of her horse.
What's Anya Up to in 2014?
Anja has been pursuing her passion for Chinese culture, art, and history this past year. All her courses now include materials that reflect her love for ancient and modern China. For the third time now, she was able to conduct a CU Global Seminar in the Chinese city of Xi’an. A generous grant from the Tang Family Endowment for the Study of China and the support from the CU Center for Asian Studies allowed her to return with 12 CU students to this amazing city on the Silk Road. Her students worked hard this summer to master some Chinese language skills, Chinese cooking, and the highlights of the Tang and Han dynasties. In addition, they all have learned to navigate Chinese campus life.
“When we left Xi’an on an overnight train to Beijing, huddled together in the ‘hard seater’ section, I was beaming with pride at all their accomplishments!”
Her students this fall will see not only more Chinese art, but also new materials on the Gothic cathedral. In her HUEN 1010 seminar, she has always focused on the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, but now she will branch out to the French Gothic: in June this year, she packed up her husband and children and visited French cathedrals in Amiens, Bayeux, and Paris. She is excited to bring new first-hand reports about French Gothic art to the classroom. Who can’t get excited about a medieval building that measures 13 stories in height—and has no steel enforcement? If Anja doesn’t fall off her new horse, she will continue to report on our beautiful globe, its art, its people, and its cultures. To share your travel experiences with her, visit Herbst on Facebook.
Associate Dean for Education, College of Engineering
Office: ECOT 411
Diane Sieber joined the Herbst faculty in fall 2004. Raised in Spain, she pursued undergraduate studies in Spanish and Russian literatures and in history (University of Virginia), and earned her MA and PhD in Romance languages (Princeton University). She comes to Herbst from the CU-Boulder Department of Spanish and Portuguese, where she has taught freshman critical thinking classes, Spanish culture, medieval and Golden Age Spanish literature and the arts, and graduate seminars on Spanish theater, the European Baroque, Don Quixote and the monster in literature and film. She has published a book on Spanish historiography and articles on Don Quixote, the Spanish theater, the Moorish population in the Spanish Empire prior to 1614, and Spanish writings on colonial New Mexico (1541-1700).
Diane discovered computer programming, web design and digital art as an assistant professor and continues to pursue all three. Although the two halves of her world would seem to be far apart, she sees the blending of technology, the arts and humanities as the key to a fulfilling life. In Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (1528), the ideal renaissance man educated himself in many different areas of study with the conviction that the knowledge native to one field of study can lead to greater understanding in another; that answers in one discipline can resolve questions in another; that a well-rounded individual is better able to respond to life’s challenges. Having spent the last few years exploring technology with arts and humanities students, Diane is looking forward to many years of discussing the arts and humanities with engineers.
Diane’s interests include Renaissance, Baroque and modern literature and art; film studies; Latin hip-hop; the ethics and social impacts of technology; motorcycles and Formula One racing. Her primary interest as a university professor is to communicate the pleasure of reading and the relevance of literature and the arts to our daily lives.
Office: ATLAS 225C
Joel Swanson is an artist and writer and director of the Technology, Arts & Media Program at CU-Boulder.
He teaches courses on digital art, media theory and the history of design. He received his MFA in digital art at the University of California, San Diego.
His artwork is motivated by literary theory and exists as a series of installations, both real and virtual, that explore the nature of language and its embodiment. Swanson’s work has been shown in various national and international venues and can be seen online at joelswanson.net.