Sullivan named Paideia director

By: Spencer Hodge, Staff Writer
March 13, 2014

Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies Rebecca Sullivan (‘84) has been appointed by the Dean as Paideia director for the next three years beginning next fall.
Sullivan was first a Paideia student when she attended Luther and then became a Paideia instructor later in 1986. She plans to use her familiarity with the Paideia program to head its effort toward liberal arts education.

“Paideia had a big impact on me,” Sullivan said. “After I left Luther, in fact, I had gone into interdisciplinary studies. My first master’s degree was in American Studies, which was an interdisciplinary study of American culture. I just really think it’s an interesting way to study.”

Sullivan believes students can develop critical thinking, effective writing and strong voice through Paideia.

Spencer Hodge / Chips

“Paideia is a very distinctive first-year program, sort of a signature course here at Luther, and I think one of the secrets to that has been its continuity,” Sullivan said. “[Professor of History] Jackie Wilkie and the faculty have a very strong program in place. There will be no big changes coming just because I am the Paideia director. I think my job is to just stay the course.”

The Paideia director traditionally has many duties. Sullivan will often be in consultation with the Paideia Planning Committee, which she has once been a part of herself. Together they will develop the future Paideia teaching staff with a focus on interdisciplinary instructors. With all academic departments represented, there are usually over 30 Paideia professors per semester, so it can take considerable effort to coordinate them all. Selected staff will then develop the curriculum for the next year’s Paideia courses, including the reading list, music selections and artworks.

“It’s a lively part of the job when we all get in one room and talk about our approaches to teaching a text,” Sullivan said. “It’s a very collaborative kind of staff.”

The director also meets with a governing board composed of past Paideia instructors to discuss how funding is spent toward the program. In 1987, Paideia received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that supports the monthly Text and Issue Lecture Series, sabbatical grants and the Writing Lab in the library. Another smaller NEH grant overseen by Sullivan and the board funds Paideia classroom technology.

Sullivan looks forward to her extended duties within the program.

“I get a lot of joy out of helping first-year students discover their abilities,” Sullivan said. “In my mind, that’s very empowering.”