Johns Hopkins University
Fall/Winter 2006
Vol. 4, No. 1
Adam Falk

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Dean’s Letter

Dear Friends of the Krieger School:

As I begin my first full year as the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, I am filled with anticipation. There are new beginnings on many fronts. This fall we welcome the largest freshman class in Johns Hopkins history—1,200-plus students at the Homewood Schools—and we have unveiled the long-awaited Charles Commons, an innovative new residence complex for upperclassmen.

In making your way through the pages of this issue of Arts & Sciences, you’ll find a recurring theme: that of interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s a theme vital to the future of the Krieger School and one that will inform many of our research and teaching initiatives in the years ahead.”

Make no mistake. The Krieger School has a strong tradition of strong departments based on enduring disciplines. We are not departing from that. At the same time, our small size has always provided opportunities for cross-disciplinary initiatives that transcend departmental boundaries. In "A Major Change" you’ll discover that our three most popular majors today are all interdisciplinary. This reflects a hunger on the part of our students, I believe, for an education that is informed by a diverse set of ideas and approaches.

The Center for Africana Studies is particularly exciting to me, and not just because it’s our latest interdisciplinary initiative. What’s cause for celebration is the innovative way in which the new center integrates the three parts of its mission: the study of Africa, the African Diaspora (which pertains to the movement of black peoples from their ancestral homelands to a variety of hostlands), and African-American studies. As you’ll read in “Out of Africa”, the center under new director Ben Vinson’s leadership is poised to offer our students a scope and breadth of study that is unusual among such programs.

Even in the work of the talented people who support the technological efforts of our researchers, it’s clear that interdisciplinary collaboration is essential. In “Shop Talk” we take you inside the machinists’ shop of Steve Patterson, Scott Spangler, and Gabe Morris. What’s striking is the synergistic relationship that emerges between these exacting machinists and the space scientists and engineers they serve.

The interdisciplinary theme also informs the exciting capital projects we are pursuing. The opening of Charles Commons provides an important opportunity for students to experience a unique living and learning community—complete with our first Charles Commons Faculty Fellow in residence, assistant professor Amy Shelton. Now that construction has been completed, we can begin the real work: figuring out how Charles Commons can best be utilized to bring together students, faculty, and members of the community. That’s exciting stuff; every bit as absorbing as getting the building constructed, but much more fun!

Also on the drawing board: plans for the renovation of Gilman Hall. When the school’s signature building was conceived 100 years ago, its design was advanced for the time. With its library stacks in the core of the building and surrounding seminar rooms, Gilman Hall captured a very forward-looking idea of how humanities teaching and research should be done. In imagining the possibilities for the “new” Gilman Hall, we’ll once again strive to capture a vision of what humanities scholarship and teaching will be in the next 100 years.

I look forward to sharing with you our planning and progress on Gilman Hall in issues to come.

Adam Falk
James B. Knapp Dean