Seery Recognized for Commitment to Liberal Arts

George Irving Thompson Memorial Professor of Government and Professor of Politics John Seery has won a triennial award from the Phi Beta Kappa honors society for liberal arts educators.The Sidney Hook Memorial Award, which includes a $7,500 prize funded by a grant from the John Dewey Foundation, recognizes excellence in scholarship, undergraduate teaching, and leadership for liberal arts education.“I’m the first person from a liberal arts college to win this award and I presume that’s why they picked me,” Seery said. “I think they wanted to focus attention on liberal arts teaching in the trenches.”Seery will accept the award at a Phi Beta Kappa banquet Saturday in Austin, Texas, where he will also be the keynote speaker.Professor Susan McWilliams, also in Pomona’s Politics department, nominated Seery more than two years ago.“She cryptically came up to me and said, ‘Send me your [curriculum vitae]. I want to nominate you for this award,’” Seery said. “She came into my office a couple of months ago jumping up and down shouting ‘you won.’”While Seery said he is glad he won the award, he is wary because he feels it is “a little pre-obituary.”“I welcome it, but it’s also a little strange to be thrust into a national spotlight,” Seery said. “I have a lifelong reservation against awards culture. I refused to be recognized as valedictorian in high school. I haven’t had motivation to seek out awards.”Seery said he likes liberal arts education because it places him in good company.“It’s hard to put into words,” Seery said. “I like well-rounded, well-spoken people. I like quality individuals and that’s what liberal arts education produces.”Marlies Talay PO ’10 said Seery “is a perfect example of a professor who is crazy about liberal arts education.”“Professor Seery not only makes his students think in ways they wouldn’t have ordinarily, but is also sincerely dedicated and interested in his students,” Talay said. “He is always available to speak with them, to talk about their day or their future, and to help them in any way he can.”Kaylie Wilson PO ’10, another student of Seery’s, said she appreciates the communal feel of his teaching style.“His system for running his class is great,” Wilson said. “Every class is run by students, but he manages to insert small lectures within student lessons. He develops the class as a community.”Wilson said she also likes how Seery learns alongside his students.“In some ways, it’s as if he’s developing his knowledge as he teaches,” Wilson said. “The class’s awareness increases as his awareness increases.”Greg Carter PO ’10 said Seery’s background as an Iowa native also contributes to his teaching style.“I think he adds to Pomona because there are so few people from the Midwest or from non-urban areas,” Carter said. “He has some sense of the world that many don’t have, and he brings that to class.”

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