Professor Sidney Fine (1920-2009) was legendary as a teacher. A specialist in twentieth-century American history, he taught at Michigan for fifty-three years. When he reached retirement age, former students in the Michigan Legislature drafted a bill that put an end to mandatory retirement in Michigan universities. He unretired and continued teaching until age eighty. The Sidney Fine Teaching Partnership program continues to celebrate his legacy. Photo: Sidney Fine, 1984. (University of Michigan News and Information Services Photographs, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

History’s new teaching partnership program, honoring the memory of Professor Sidney Fine, pairs faculty members with graduate students to collaboratively prepare a new course or revise an old one. This process gives the faculty member a fresh class to teach and the graduate student a syllabus that can be developed into a future course and included in a teaching dossier.

This collaboration means faculty provide mentoring, input, and advice on their student partner’s syllabus design. Students assist with identifying and defining course goals and help to procure texts, images, film clips, and other course materials. Together they work out pedagogical approaches, the use of technologies, the balance between textual and visual materials, and the use of course websites.

The teaching partnership program began in 2016. Participants Hussein Fancy and Kate Waggoner-Karchner worked over that summer to build a broad bibliography of primary and secondary sources for a History 195 class, “Medieval Europe’s Understanding of Islam.” They categorized the sources—around 750 items—by geography and period, which were further systematized by themes such as mission, travel, polemic, crusade, perception, literature, diplomacy, military, and captivity. For her course design, Waggoner-Karchner chose weekly themes and readings, made outlines for lesson plans, and created writing assignments.

“The partnership allowed me to create an entirely new syllabus to bolster my teaching portfolio when I go on the job market,” said Waggoner-Karchner. “Hussein guided me as I practiced creating my own assignments, choosing relevant reading materials, and balancing big-picture goals for the course with the detail that is involved in a course syllabus.”

With any luck, students will soon be signing up for these courses.

Selected Teams and Courses

Valerie Kivelson and Noah Blan: “Race and Racism: Application of the Past to the Present” (History 102) will engage more deeply with modern and premodern, theoretical, and historical scholarship to help formulate concrete frameworks for students trying to understand these issues today. Blan’s syllabus project, “Race and Racism in Medieval Europe,” presents premodern categories of difference, how they functioned, and how they have shaped the present. Image: Scene from Sarajevo Haggadah (Barcelona, c. 1350). (University of Pittsburgh Special Collections)
Susan Juster and Alyssa Penick: This reworking of “Religion in America” (History 270) will consider a diverse range of religious traditions practiced by Americans from the colonial period through modern times. The course will highlight themes such as revivalism, commercialization, and the fragmentation of religious life, as well as the legal, social, and cultural history of many faith traditions. Penick’s syllabus project, “History of Religious Freedom in the United States,” will concentrate on the legal, political, and cultural struggles around the concept of religious freedom from the colonial era to the present. Image: James Barry, “Religious and civil liberty established in Maryland, 1649” (cropped). (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
Bob Bain and Kate Wroblewski: “History at Multiple Scales” (History 597/Education 547) will introduce the virtue and challenges of using different temporal and spatial scales in researching, teaching, and studying history. In one section, students focus on a commodity (sugar, cotton, coffee) and study how production, use, and control shift over time; they use history and the sciences (chemistry or geology) to explain the impact on humans and the environment. The idea is to approach scales of time and space from immediate and local to temporally and spatially distant. Wroblewski’s project, “Big History of Sweetness,” looks at scientific, social, and cultural perspectives—part biology of food, part history of taste—and the links between sugar and labor. Image: Workers thin sugar beets, Monterey County, California, 1939. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
Christian de Pee and Paula R. Curtis: Conversion of “The Chinese Renaissance” (History 251) will change this course from a seminar to a large lecture course at a higher level and expand the range of topics covered from agriculture, commerce, religion, philosophy, and gardens to include food, science and technology, medicine, warfare, ethnicity, and diplomatic relations. The expansion will allow direct treatment of connections between China and Renaissance Europe, bringing the class fully into world history. Curtis’s syllabus project, “From Edo to Roma: Imperial Encounters in the Early Modern World,” will be a seminar on comparative Eurasian history. Image: Jean Denis Attiret, “Maison de Chou-Liang-Ho,” 1788 (cropped). (The New York Public Library Digital Collections)
Sueann Caulfield and Pedro Cantisano: “The History of the Inter-American Human Rights System” is a new course to be taught in collaboration, via video conferencing, with Carlos Haddad, a professor of law and federal judge in Brazil who runs a human trafficking clinic. Cantisano’s syllabus project, “The History of Human Rights in Modern Latin America,” will overview the emergence of civil, political, economic and social rights, and the memory of state violence, focusing on the role of the courts in this process. Image: Defensores de pueblos indígenas y ambiente, Ecuador, 2015. Alicia Cahuiya (left), Organización de la Nacionalidad Huaorani Ecuador; Gloria Hilda Ushigua (right), Mujeres Saparas. (Daniel Cima, Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos)