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Sierra Nevada College Humanities Professor Robert King awarded Purdue Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2011



Winner of the Purdue College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2011

(INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.)   Sierra Nevada College is pleased to announce the major award received by Humanities faculty member Dr. Robert King – The Purdue College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2011. Dr. King has taught for the past year in the Humanities Department at Sierra Nevada College .  His classes include Literary Criticism, Enlightenment and the French Revolution, World Civilizations and Eco-psychology, among others. He and his fiancée Professor Samantha Bankston, co-founded the successful College French Film Festival that debuted last April. He is still pursuing his research and working on an upcoming book of essays on 20th century systems theory.

Dr. King, what was the focus of your dissertation?

My dissertation research focused on the ontology of systems in the history of philosophy.  That is, I asked, what is a system; how do systems come into being, establish themselves for a time, and then fade away; how have systems been defined by the great thinkers and is this definition still relevant to us today?  I argued that two philosophers in particular—G.W.F. Hegel and Gilles Deleuze—had revolutionized the concept of system very uniquely, that both had something very important to say to us about how individuals find a place in the systems they belong to (and that cut through them), but that they used a very different language to do so.

What do you think made your work novel and unique?

Well, I synthesized the systems of both Hegel and Deleuze, added some insights from 20th century theoretical biology, and developed a theory that would help me to think through a new problem: what mechanisms are responsible for the reproduction of systems and how might we manipulate these mechanisms so that individuals might push systems toward more sustainable ends?

How does your research relate to your teaching at Sierra Nevada College?

My teaching relates directly to my dissertation research.  My main aim in the classroom is to teach students how to think in a critical and systematic fashion.  In my World Civilization class, for example, I ask students questions like, “Can we understand ancient Greece not just as a historical culture, but as a social system?  What are the underlying structures that give this civilization its unity, and how do the Ancient Greeks reproduce these structures materially, over time, so that they can conduct sustainable social relations.”

Why is this important to students at Sierra Nevada College?

I want my students to remember more than names and dates; I want them to consider what it is that gives systematic coherence to the objects they study.  The challenge I face is that our culture tends to think in terms of individuals rather than systems, so systematic analysis can be quite difficult to pick up.  The systematic dimension of things is often hidden. But, I believe that systematic questions are the most important ones for us to ask.

Sierra Nevada College is a private liberal arts college offering undergraduate and graduate degrees with campuses in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Reno and online. The interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizes entrepreneurial thinking, professional preparedness and sustainability. To learn more about Sierra Nevada College, call 775.831.1314 or visit www.sierranevada.edu

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