Dr. Leslie reflects on first semester as Fulbright Scholar

Christopher Leslie, Polytechnic Institute of NYU Instructor of Technology and Media Studies, has completed his first semester as one of 2008-2009’s 1,000 distinguished Fulbright Scholars who will, according to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, “shape the interest and future direction of countless students.”

Dr. Leslie, a 17-year Brooklyn resident, began his Fulbright Scholar position at Germany’s Postdam University last fall. “Having packed my bags and immersed myself in a new university environment, I am amazed at the subtle differences in the process of education here,” says Dr. Leslie

“In telling people about how I typically organize a course and hearing the ways in which they work, I am starting to imagine new possibilities for university classes. And as [Historian Arnold] Pacey notes, the true opportunity for innovation is coming back home and trying to make these new ideas work in a culture that is different from the one in which they were born.”

Dr. Leslie taught three seminars during his first semester: The Digital Humanities, a seminar for beginning students; Multicultural U.S. Literature, a survey course; and a seminar based on his current research project, Social Science Fiction.

He comments that “one thing that makes it easier to teach is that many of the students have a second major in the sciences or engineering. So, as in classes at NYU-Poly, we engage in a genuine analysis about the interaction between technology and culture. My students are also interested in an insider’s view of American culture, and I am interested in their view as outsiders, and that helps to start some interesting conversations.”

Next semester, Dr. Leslie will teach a seminar in the Art and Science of U.S. Modernism, present a lecture course on the History and Philosophy of the Internet, and direct a graduate seminar that covers the media history of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds.

Immersing himself in his temporary city has sparked new areas of Dr. Leslie’s scholarly work as well. “What is interesting is the way that the library collections are encouraging me to explore new directions in my research,” he says.

“For instance, I am completing my study of U.S. science fiction. As an instructor at NYU-Poly, I am interested in the way this medium promotes technological innovation and reflects scientific culture. But in the context of an international exchange, this work has taken on an added dimension. Research material at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin has directed me to an international study of mass media — not to mention the library’s location near the historic Potsdamer Platz.”

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship program in international educational exchange. Since the program’s inception in 1946, approximately 279,500 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — have had the opportunity to exchange ideas and to contribute to finding solutions to shared issues.

“I am very fortunate to have been chosen for this opportunity and I am grateful that the Department of Humanities and Social Science has granted me a year’s leave of absence to pursue it,” Dr. Leslie said.

He added that much of his application came from work that he had done as an instructor at NYU-Poly. “I submitted several of my syllabi as part of my application, and also wrote about my experience in the multicultural and multinational environment that makes Polytechnic such a great place to work and study. So, the award not just recognizes my teaching and research, but also admires what we do in HuSS.”