“Genuinely collaborative”

STUDENT-TEACHER COLLABORATION LEADS TO NATIONAL PUBLICATION

Lots of colleges and universities talk about student-faculty interaction, about the accessibility of professors to students, and about high-quality research opportunities. At Hampden-Sydney College, we deliver.

SUBSCRIBERS TO THE academic journal Modern Theology can read in the January issue the article "The Son More Visible: Immaterialism and the Incarnation," the result of collaboration between Elliot Associate Professor of Philosophy Marc Hight and Josh Bohannon '09. Through their combined hard work, Bohannon achieved something very few undergraduates do: he co-authored an article that has been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

"None of my classmates in graduate school have even thought about being published," says Bohannon, who is pursuing a master's at the University of Virginia. It all started in Bohannon's sophomore year when he wrote a paper on the philosophy of religion for Dr. Hight's class Empiricism and Kant. Dr. Hight encouraged Bohannon to continue thinking about the ideas he had developed and later approached him about writing an article together.

Dr. Hight says, "Josh is a bright young man genuinely caught in the intellectual curiosity of the mind. He went beyond what we did in class, which led him to seek summer honors and a Senior Fellowship. We  were discussing things like, 'If you want to be a good Christian, how do you reconcile that with the things you find in the world?' We share a similar intellectual curiosity."

"We started with the assumption that we would do enough work to get published," says Bohannon. When they were ready, they sent their article to the most prestigious academic journal on the topic. "We were pretty certain that we would get turned down by the first journal, but Dr. Hight said that it was the best and that we could use the comments from that process to make the article better. After we made some changes, Dr. Hight told me he didn't think we would get rejected too many more times. He said if we worked on the comments we would be picked up-and we were."

Faculty do not seek publication simply to get published. Hight says, "We publish because we want to expose our ideas to the widest possible criticism at the highest levels. It's not enough to know that we have a neat idea; it's nice to know that you might be right." The experience has been incredibly rewarding for Bohannon. Not only did he learn how to navigate the peer-review process, but also he used the topic for his Senior Fellowship, a cross-disciplinary research project in philosophy and religion, his two majors. Hight says the Senior Fellows Program is challenging but exciting. "It enables a student to do interdisciplinary work at a relatively high level, in close contact with two faculty members. Its takes them to places that you just can't reach in the classroom. They develop and refine intellectual skills. For example, Josh was forced to write 140 pages that were clear and cohesive. You're not going to do that in a standard course."

Because Bohannon did not learn until his last semester that the article had been accepted by Modern  theology, the accomplishment did not factor into his graduate school acceptance. It is not surprising, though, that Bohannon did not need much help. He was an Allan Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Eta Sigma Phi classics honor society, Theta Alpha Kappa religion honor society, and winner of the Religion Department Award. Though Bohannon's accomplishments are impressive, Hight underscores the magnitude of publishing the article: "Undergraduates sometimes publish in the sciences and social sciences. It is exceptionally rare for an undergraduate to publish in the humanities. Josh brought his own distinct personality and ideas to the table. We are listed as coauthors and I can say without reservation that it was a joint project. It was genuinely collaborative."

It is not only collaborative, but also fun. He adds, "It is always a pleasure to work with smart, motivated students."