By Julia Livesey
Philosophy Professor Richard Kamber was recently selected as the first recipient of the Robert Anderson First Seminar Instructor of the Year Award at the First Annual First Seminar Program (FSP) Award Breakfast on Wednesday, March 9.
Held in the Education Building, the FSP Committee also selected Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program Specialist Todd McCrary and English Professor Michele Lise Tarter as finalists. The award recognizes faculty excellence within the Liberal Learning program.
FSP Coordinator Lisa Grimm began the event by acknowledging and thanking all FSP instructors for their hard work and dedication to the program.
FSP courses are a blend of discipline-specific questions, community-engaged learning and experiences that go beyond the classroom, as well as first-year mentoring and skill development. These courses enable students to work closely with a professor and their fellow classmates on a topic of their choosing outside of their major that will help them to accelerate to a higher level of thinking and engagement.
“We work so hard on this campus to embody our first signature experience,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Taylor said in regard to the FSP program.
Taylor believes that these courses allow students to really think outside of the box and are much more rigorous than other FSP-type courses nationwide.
“What separates TCNJ students from others is that from the time they enter to the time they leave, they have become life learners and critical thinkers,” Taylor said. Sociology Professor Robert Anderson, who has been at the College since 1967, also appreciates the forward thinking nature of the program.
The award is named in his honor, as Anderson has played a significant role in the program’s development and growth. The devoted former assistant provost of Liberal Learning described the history and expansion of the program throughout the years and marveled over what it has become today.
“There is such a need for broad-based learning,” Anderson said. “I am honored beyond belief just to have my name on this award.”
According to Grimm, the award, which will be given annually, is bestowed upon an instructor who meaningfully blends all of the components of the program to create an intellectually engaging and supportive experience for first-year students.
Kamber is a seasoned professor and has taught for the FSP program since 2004. His current course, “Morality, God and Free Will,” offers students the chance to help inmates prepare résumés for post-release employment, visit major cultural resources in New York City and learn from guest speakers in special areas of philosophy.
Before Kamber received the award, junior political science major Arianna Chatterjee lauded him for being such a noteworthy and influential professor.
“Professor Kamber was one of the best professors I have had the privilege to study under both as a freshman and now as a junior,” Chatterjee said.
She said that Kamber teaches with an enthusiasm and love for the subject that emanates across his face when he discusses Plato, Kant or any other philosopher. Chatterjee believes that his incorporation of Socrates Café — the questioning and exchanging of ideas — really made her feel that she was now a part of something larger than herself and it gave her a more realistic sense of what college is about.
“It is not simply to get a piece of paper with your name and major, but to leave here as a better person, capable of changing and shaping our corners of the world for the better,” Chatterjee said.
Humble and modest, Kamber took to the front of the room to accept the award. Though his speech was cut short due to time, he reminded his counterparts of the importance of the Liberal Learning program and how it provides students with the skills, knowledge and vision that extend far beyond the classroom that they will need to be successful.
“You never know what skills are going to be critical in your future in your personal life or career-wise,” Kamber said. “We do our students a disservice if we don’t prepare them for these opportunities.”
Kamber believes that an undergraduate education needs to reflect aspects from three key areas: careers, citizenship and personal fulfillment.
In his speech, he used Steve Jobs’s take on Apple as a metaphor to explain the importance of Liberal Learning.
“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing,” he said.
Kamber continued by detailing the responsibility of the College to give a well-rounded education.
“I believe wholeheartedly that we at TCNJ have an obligation to help students get good jobs,” Kamber said. “But I also believe that we have an obligation to help our students get good lives.”