“The Traditions of Mediterranean Humanism and the Challenges of Our Times: the Frontiers of Humanity” is an innovative interdisciplinary doctoral program within the Faculty of Artes Liberales at the University of Warsaw, generously supported by the Foundation for Polish Science.

The Program began in the Spring of 2010 with the selection of thirteen PhD students from among over 160 applicants who responded to a global call for applications. For eight semesters the students took part in a series of biweekly Program Seminars together with thirteen professors and two postdoctoral fellows. This systematic and well-integrated team work brought together young researchers and senior scholars from a wide array of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences: anthropology, art history, classics and neo-Latin studies, gender studies, philosophy, comparative literature, linguistics, history, Balkan studies, Hellenic Studies, Polish, Italian, Spanish and French (see the biographical information on all the faculty and students of the Program).

The Program Seminars took place at the University of Warsaw and were attended by the entire faculty and all the students on the Program, either in person or through video conferencing. This technical arrangement allowed for full participation throughout the entire eight-semester period, despite the impressive mobility of the students, who were frequently away on research trips or presenting at prestigious international conferences (indeed, as of November 2014 they had presented papers at 48 conferences abroad and at 43 conferences in Poland). In addition, each of the students spent between 6 and 18 months attending fellowships in different universities and research centers in Europe, Russia and the USA, where they had the opportunity to contribute significantly to the life and work of these institutions and collaborate with eminent scholars in their respective fields of specialization.

The doctoral studies in the Program were based on intense collaboration between all participants, faculty and students alike. Research was conducted individually as well as in small teams. Each student’s paper and presentation were evaluated by all the professors, as well as by other students, through diverse methods of peer evaluation, allowing all the students to receive ongoing, constructive feedback on their research. The graduate studies in this unique interdisciplinary Program followed specific Guidelines which were established at the outset and rigorously enforced throughout.

The bulk of the team work was organized around the biweekly Program Seminars which were conducted either in one plenary or two parallel sessions. The following are the topics of the seminars for each of the semesters of the Program. More detailed information on each of these can be found in the hyperlinks:
Fall 2010 and Spring 2011: “My Search for the Frontiers of Humanity”
Fall 2011: “The Costs and Benefits of Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries”
Spring 2012: “Dissertation Projects”
Fall 2012: “Where Do We Go from Here?”
Spring 2013: “The Challenge of Interdisciplinarity”
Fall 2013: “Pre-Defenses”

In the Spring of 2014, in place of the Seminars, the Program offered to the students three specialized workshops aimed at preparing them to apply for academic positions and research fellowships (more information on these workshops can also be found in the hyperlinks):

Throughout the duration of the Program, each student was assisted by an individual Academic Advisor with whom he or she met individually at least 3 times per academic year and whom the student was free to choose from among the faculty of the Program (although importantly the PhD Advisor could not also serve as the Academic Advisor of his or her advisee).

At the end of each semester the work of each student was graded independently on a scale from 1 to 6 by the student’s PhD Advisor, his or her Academic Advisor and the Program Director. The average grade was communicated to the student along with constructive suggestions on how to improve. At the end of each academic year each student was also asked to write a thorough anonymous evaluation of the Program. This feedback was used to improve the Program in the following academic year.

Alongside individual research, the Fellowships abroad and the team work during the Program Seminars, the students were offered two further opportunities for personal and academic enrichment.

Firstly, they could compete for the opportunity to conduct an undergraduate class at the University of Warsaw on a topic of their choosing. Such teaching experience was coupled with a program of rigorous Pedagogical Training provided by a team of three senior professors and two experienced Teaching Assistants.

Secondly, students could also take part in a Competition for the Best Outreach Project. The aim of such a project was to make their personal research useful for a wider audience outside of academia. The competing projects were evaluated by a team of experts and business leaders from Poland and the USA.

The doctoral dissertations are of course the main outcome of the Program. As of November 2014, the PhD students have also published an impressive total of 48 articles and conference papers (with 8 more forthcoming) as a direct result of their research in the Program. Overall, they have proven to be not only very talented young scholars, but also excellent team players and very reliable colleagues.

Film podsumowujący program MPD.

The Traditions of Mediterranean Humanism and the Challenges of Our Times. The Frontiers of Humanity.

Professor Jerzy Axer

Director of the Program

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