It’s hard to believe that by the time most of you read this it will be Thanksgiving—week twelve of the semester—meaning that even with Covid nipping at our heels and looming over our heads, we’ve still made it through the fall term. Whatever lies ahead of us, we can certainly say that a semester of high-level thinking and learning has come and gone at BGC. In addition to our regular classes we were able to benefit from two pop-up series presented by the fall’s research fellows. Beeta Baghoolizadeh is featured in this newsletter; Elizabeth Guffey, in a remarkable series, helped show us how the lens provided by “disability” clarifies and magnifies many unspoken assumptions made by those who design things and those who consume them. From the things out to their economic, political, and philosophical implications, these were talks short in time but rich in implications.

Looking to a Covid fall in the balmy days of summer, it seemed that the one feature of our collective life that even a smooth pivot to hybrid and remote learning could not carry over was its face-to-face informality. Thinking about that alongside of what we knew about the virus, we decided that very, very small group learning—if we were inclined to military-style acronyms we might have called it VVSGL, instead we called it “First-Year Tutorial”—was the way to go. And so, every week or two during the semester, faculty met with up to, but no more than, two first-year students. The meetings were designed to provide opportunities for pastoral care, but the core mission was creating an out-of-class and, therefore, more informal opportunity for faculty and students to build an intellectual life together. This amounted to us seizing an opportunity created by a dread disease to do something entirely consistent with our mission to create the next generation’s thinkers about things.

“First-Year Tutorial” takes its place as the most recent addition to BGC’s Core Curriculum, a series of courses taken by all MA students and representing what we want all our students to know. This includes the two required survey courses, but also the digital literacy requirement added two years ago, the writing course added last year, and the internship, which this year we no longer charge for. (Many of you know that there is a big movement in the wider world to stop charging for internship credit and to stop offering unpaid internships. At BGC, we are doing both: our students no longer have to pay us to do work for which they are not being paid; and we are making sure that any internships that we offer come with stipends. Why do we still require internships, then, you might ask? Because so many of our students get jobs through them that eliminating the requirement altogether would be a colossal bit of self-punishment.)

Finally, the change in how we think about exhibitions, which is an unfolding work-in-progress, has also put a much bigger focus on digital exhibition-making. To reflect that, our Digital Media Lab, now in its tenth year, has rebranded its activities as DH/DX: Digital Humanities and Digital Exhibitions. The Eileen Gray online site, which earned praise from The New York Times and many other media outlets, marks only the beginning of this turn. Stay tuned for more good things coming from this space.

Between Space-X and my fourth-grader’s science curriculum, I’ve been hearing a lot about outer space the last few weeks. Over the holiday, I’ll try and take this in a different direction by reading Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s new book of poems, A Treatise on Stars.