Published: Nov. 9, 1998

Jim Palmer, film studies professor and director of the Farrand Academic Program since 1988, has been named director of the Conference on World Affairs, replacing political science Professor Sven Steinmo, who revitalized the waning conference in 1995.

Steinmo resigned the post last June after a three-year stint as director to return to his teaching and research in the political science department.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Spear announced Palmer's appointment Tuesday as planning for next spring's 51st conference takes shape this fall. The annual gathering of intellectuals, political pundits, journalists, artists and others was launched by the late Howard Higman, CU-Boulder sociology professor, in 1948.

Dean Spear said he is "delighted" that Palmer has agreed to take over direction of the conference. "Jim is creative and energetic and will continue the outstanding 50-year tradition of the conference," including a recent emphasis on re-establishing faculty and student involvement in conference events, he said.

"Jim is highly regarded by students and faculty and will be very effective at continuing to involve them in the conference," said Spear.

Spear added that Palmer is considering expanding the concept of the World Affairs Conference to include year-round visits by conference-caliber guests who would meet with faculty and students, teach classes, conduct seminars for undergraduate and graduate students, give public lectures and continue to foster interaction between CU and the broader Boulder-Denver community.

Such an expansion might involve creating a center to plan the year-round activities, Spear said.

Palmer said his interest in freedom of speech makes the World Affairs Conference position attractive to him. "I'm very close to a free speech absolutist," Palmer said.

"There's a lot of free speech that I don't like and that's why it's important to remind myself to be a guardian of free speech. I think the World Affairs Conference should be open to bringing all kinds of experts to campus, not that we will look for controversy but we don't want to run from it either."

The opportunity to expand on the World Affairs concept by attracting top guests throughout the year also attracted Palmer. "I'd like to see us bringing in guests to stay for one to two weeks at a time to meet with students and faculty and to really engage in serious, extended discussion."

Palmer has been on the CU-Boulder faculty since 1973 and has received several awards for teaching and service during his tenure. At last May's commencement ceremonies he received the Robert L. Stearns Award given annually by the CU Alumni Association to faculty and staff members for "outstanding achievement." The award is named in honor of CU's sixth president.

In 1991 Palmer received the President's Teaching Scholar Award, in 1986 the Farrand Teacher of the Year Award, in 1985 the Boulder Faculty Assembly Teaching Excellence Award and in 1980 the CU Teaching Recognition Award.

As acting vice chancellor for student affairs from 1994 to 1995, Palmer was responsible for all of the university's major student affairs departments including Admissions, Registration, Financial Aid, the Student Recreation Center, Wardenburg Health Service, Housing and Counseling and Career Services, among others.

Palmer teaches "Film and the Quest for Truth" and two team-taught courses on World War I and Nazi Germany with history Professor Robert Pois in the Farrand Residential Academic Program. In film studies he teaches "everything from general courses like "The History of Film" to specialty courses like "Jung, Film and Literature" and "Film and Fiction," Palmer said.

He earned his bachelor's degree in English from Dartmouth College, a master's in English and American literature from Claremont Graduate School in California and a doctorate in English and film from Claremont Graduate School.

Palmer is on leave from the Farrand Academic Program for 1998-99.

Steinmo, Palmer's predecessor, was credited with revitalizing the World Affairs Conference following concern that the annual event had stagnated and was not involving CU faculty and students. The 48th anniversary of the conference in May 1996, the first under Steinmo, was warmly received by campus and community participants and resulted in renewed interest and higher attendance for the conference.