Meet Me in Hanover: Academic Conferences Bring Great Minds to Campus


Sometimes it’s just about being there. Despite the rise of technology that enables meeting at a distance, gathering face-to-face still matters in academia.

July 29 and 30, Dartmouth hosts “100 Years of The Secret Garden: A Centenary Conference,” organized by Gretchen Gerzina, the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography. (photo courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

“Scholarly meetings are not solely defined by the formal lectures and exchanges,” says Adrian Randolph, the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art.  “You can’t predict where the flash of inspiration or insight might come from; it could be in a question and answer session following a presentation, or it might arrive in the corridor during a chance encounter with another scholar.” Randolph also directs Dartmouth’s Leslie Center for the Humanities, which frequently sponsors conferences.

When Dartmouth hosts conferences, he continues, the College “draws attention to its place in the world of ideas and provides Dartmouth faculty and students direct access to the information coursing through academia’s network.”

Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric (IWR) launches its first two-week Research Summer Seminar, July 31 through August 12, 2011, in collaboration with the Council of Writing Program Administrators. Building on Dartmouth’s history in the modern field of composition, the seminar’s directors hope to again  shape the nature of the discipline.

Christiane Donahue, IWR’s director, is convening the seminar. “Data exist about effective undergraduate writing and how it’s taught,” she says. “What’s lacking is a discipline of research to guide those who shape curricula in how to interpret that data and then use it to improve outcomes.”

The Summer Seminar, she explains, will create a cohort of influential researchers representing a wide range of public and private U.S. four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, as well as two international institutions.

“Participants will present their work at the end of the seminar,” notes Donahue, “and all members of the Dartmouth community will be welcome. We’re particularly excited that our first-year writing faculty will have access to an unparalleled opportunity to learn about current research and research methods in composition that will then support their teaching.”

Also this summer, Dartmouth hosts “100 Years of The Secret Garden: A Centenary Conference,” organized by Gretchen Gerzina, the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography. Presenters for the July 29 and July 30 meeting include British and American scholars of literature and culture, as well as Penny Deupree, the great-granddaughter of The Secret Garden author Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Academics are not the only audience for this meeting, Gerzina points out: “The conference is casting its net wider than the scholarly community; we’ve deliberately scheduled it for Sophomore Family Weekend, so that families, students, faculty, and the wider local community can participate.” Gerzina is also professor and chair of English.

In addition to scholarly presentations, the conference includes a screening of the 1949 film The Secret Garden starring Margaret O’Brien, and Rauner Special Collections Library is presenting an exhibition.

An addition overlooking East Wheelock Street and Dartmouth’s Green is among the changes that will give the renovated Hanover Inn flexibile, state-of-the-art conference facilities. (image courtesy of Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.)

Planning proceeds for 2012 events, including an international symposium on religious violence convened by Professor of Government James Murphy and a conference focusing on world hunger and the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the global farming system directed by Professors Mary Lou Guerinot and Thomas Jack of the Department of Biological Sciences. Soon-to-be-underway renovations at the Hanover Inn will make Dartmouth an even better environment for these upcoming scholarly gatherings.

Work on the inn, says Paul Olsen, the College’s director of real estate, “will address a longstanding need for on-campus conference facilities equipped to meet today’s multi-functional meeting requirements and that reflect Dartmouth’s place as one of the world’s leading institutions of higher education.” Renovations to the inn will begin this June and be completed by Commencement 2012.

Kelly Sundberg Seaman