Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College

A Challenging & Rewarding Experience

Katie Boswell

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Whether teaching at the College or Academy, Katie hopes all her students walk away from their experience with a heightened appreciation for human diversity.

Imagining professor Katie Boswell as a traveling salesperson is…well…just wrong. But according to a career aptitude test she completed in high school, “traveling salesperson” was the top contender. Fortunately, for all, “anthropologist”—tucked deeper into the results queue—resonated with Katie. The occupation aligned with her passion for travel, meeting people, and intellectual curiosity. After taking her first anthropology class at Drew University, she was hooked. The field’s cross-disciplinary expansiveness, which includes storytelling, history, philosophy, art, and more, captivated Katie and informed her coursework. katie boswell

Years later, during a residency at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, Katie’s advocacy for a liberal arts education came into focus. The lone anthropologist at the center, Katie came away from her conversations with other pre dissertation fellows feeling that they spoke different languages—especially around global policy and government.“My experience demonstrated a need for broad and deep critical thinking as well as the value of wide-ranging intellectual curiosity,” Katie said.

After completing her dissertation, Katie’s search for a teaching post followed a liberal arts trajectory. One snowy day in February of 2008, that track led her to Simon’s Rock. After the daylong interview, Katie knew teaching at Simon’s Rock would be a challenging and rewarding experience.

In 2016, at the introduction of Bard Academy at Simon’s Rock, Katie chose to help recruit students and to teach the inaugural class. The newness and energy surrounding the Academy piqued her interest.

Both the College and the Academy curriculum share the same principles. These are fundamental to the institution, regardless of age or grade level.

She describes the Academy curriculum as “academic rigor, an emphasis on writing clearly, discussion-based classrooms, accountability, community amongst peers and faculty, and intellectual curiosity. Learning as FUN.” The social studies course, Global Slavery, she teaches at the Academy, is a perfect example. It’s a class that explores slavery from an historic and contemporary perspective. What Katie finds interesting about the course is “the way it further complicates an already complex institution and encourages messy, hard, and yet wonderful conversations in the classroom.”

“Simon’s Rock helps to fill a gap in these new students’ academic or social life in some way. It appears to be the same for many Academy students, too,” she continues. “We are a different place for those who are different in all the right and most interesting ways.”

When asked what advice she would give to parents of a prospective Academy student, Katie quickly responds, “A prospective Academy student’s parents should know that the faculty and staff care deeply for the work they do and the students with whom they work. We work at Simon’s Rock and Bard Academy because it provides for us an opportunity to explore alongside students and to nurture their diverse interests and passions and to help the years spent here be the transformative ones they should be.”

For students hoping to follow in her footsteps, Katie suggests, “Take advantage of opportunities that only college provides, like travel and the time to explore interests widely, and do difficult things because there are lessons to be learned from hard work and possible failure. Know that coursework and experiences that may seem dissonant now will make sense in time and will prove to be important in more ways than one can ever know or quantify.”

When it’s time for a break, you might find Katie in a number of interesting places: the Kilpatrick pool perfecting her butterfly stroke for “Pacemakers”, Simon’s Rock’s Masters Swim Team; at the airport returning from a research project in West Africa with a furry friend in tow (three of her four cats are natives from West African field sites); or sitting at a sidewalk café in Europe, taking it all in. On that subject, Katie sums it up best, “Maintaining an interest in anthropology entails nothing more than living in and being awake to the world around me.”

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