A New Future for The EGS, Part Two

First: Let me begin by noting that the structure of graduate study at The EGS is intensive in the quite precise sense that students are required to attend only one session of approximately three and a half weeks in any given year. They will also attend one colloquium in an EGS hub in the course of two years of study, and will have the opportunity to participate in other events and small seminars while joining a vibrant on-line community.

The key point is that in one session, students are able to attend half of the courses required for a degree: they will undertake 6 full seminars. This might appear to be a relatively limited amount of graduate training, but in comparison with most programs in Europe, it is in fact quite extensive. The EGS offers a relatively high amount of training at an incomparable level of quality; no other program offers such a range of distinguished faculty.

Faculty in PACT are free to pursue their research interests without regard for narrow disciplinary formations (and the institutional structures that serve them). And PACT degrees are not defined by instrumentalized ends, or research programs that serve governmental policy; no research council defines the directions of intellectual inquiry at The EGS, and no economic imperatives define the balance of offerings in the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences (though The EGS has a strong commitment to the humanities, and proceeds from philosophical grounds). The core value of freedom of thought makes the PACT division of The EGS an increasingly important site in contemporary graduate study, particularly with respect to the fate of the humanities.

It will be clear that one of the great virtues of the structure of graduate training at The EGS is that it allows students to pursue their study while continuing in some other professional capacity or activity. This opens the program to a very wide range of interested individuals and allows for a very diverse student cohort made up of individuals with exceptional experience. The low-residence structure opens this opportunity to many who could never afford to devote years to a traditional degree program.

Second: At the heart of The EGS practice is a thorough commitment to cross-disciplinary thought that is informed by philosophically informed theory. Students undertaking degrees in the PAS or LMVT programs are invited to pursue special concentrations in their independent research (in a defined area, or in cross-disciplinary configurations of their own design). The curriculum is also constructed in such a way as to favour mutually informing seminar experiences, so that students can build a coherent basis of theoretical expertise. But in seminar study, students are exposed to high-level training from a range of fields outside their specialty. A student specializing in film theory or production, for example, will take courses with film theorists or directors, but they will also take courses in political thought, psychoanalytic theory, and philosophy. Their work will thus be richly informed by a broad range of thinking related to the contemporary world and issues in politics and aesthetics. The experience of traversing multiple fields will be equally important for their own research undertakings.

The assumption, here, is that a guided encounter with the thinking at work in another discipline that seeks its foundations and limits with respect to broad socio-political, ethical, or aesthetic questioning will be both formative and inspiring for students from any given area of specialty. This form of advanced training will not promote eclecticism. Rather, an exploration of the possibilities and rigors of another field of endeavour will give the students a special grasp of their relation to their own area of research, even as it increases their intellectual resources. Moreover, The EGS seeks to assemble faculty who are profoundly committed to cross-disciplinary thinking and capable of summoning relations between fields with respect to most questions under discussion. Faculty are also chosen who will function in a complementary way in any given session.

The faculty brought to The EGS are also individuals who are prepared to address non-specialists. They will know, before starting any seminar, that a portion of the student group will come from the arts, while others will be from the media, or the academy (some are already college teachers, others are spirited students at the beginning of their graduate career). They will therefore translate their thinking into terms that are accessible to any student making the effort to follow. This is not to say that faculty lower the level of their presentation for a broad audience; our distinguished faculty do not travel to Saas Fee or Valletta to present watered-down versions of their thinking! On the contrary, they seek to make their work, at its highest levels, public. Viewers of evening lectures at The EGS on YouTube will glimpse this phenomenon, though the lectures do tend to have a significant performative dimension, whereas seminars are more devoted to dialogue in most cases.

In sum: EGS sessions are brief; the PACT programs are designed to require a minimal residency and are thus open to a broad range of students. But PACT seminars work in a distinctly sophisticated manner, and already at the MA level students enjoy exceptional training with leading figures.

Even though EGS sessions are relatively brief, the experience is intense and leaves a profound mark on all of the participants. Undertaken as it is in extraordinary conditions (the mountains of Saas Fee are unforgettable, as is the powerful presence of Mediterranean history in Valletta), this educational format is unique.

--Christopher Fynsk, Dean of the PACT Division

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