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Michael Gottsegen ‘73


  • Columbia University
  • Graduate School: Columbia University & Harvard University (Ph.D. in Political Science and Religion)

Current Work:
I have been teaching at BrownUniversity in Religion and Politics, as an Assistant Professor, and next year I will be a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown while completing a book on the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. Besides my work as a teacher and scholar, I have worked extensively at building interfaith coalitions around global development issues, such as the Millennium Development Goals, a U.N. centered set of policy commitments by the nations of the world to halve extreme poverty across the globe by 2015.

Favorite Applewild Memories:
Gus Stewart’s American History course in the sixth grade was extraordinary — rich in detail and concepts. He also he made learning fun. He created this card game called “xxx stew,” in which xxx might be “Clipper Ships,” “Civil War,” or “World War II,” with two sets of cards — one with questions and one with answers, which the players would try to match up. One might call it “Non-Trivial Pursuits.” He was an excellent teacher and his teaching has had a lasting impact on me. In my own teaching, which is at the college level, I try to excite my students with a love of the material as effectively as he did in my case.

Another memory would be Glee Club recitals. We learned a lot of great contemporary music, especially Broadway musicals. In seventh grade, we learned the entire score from Oliver, which I remember to this day. It nurtured a love of musical theater which I retain to this day.

I also remember when Chick Doe decided she would cut my hair in front of the class because it was too long and I had refrained from getting a haircut. So with great fanfare she sent a student down to get the long shears from Mrs. Wit, the school administrator, and then, with other teachers and students watching through the door of the class, she proceeded to give me an ever so slight haircut. It was symbolic really, and not really embarrassing, but it made a lasting impact. And you’ll not be surprised to know that I got a real haircut that evening!

Some teachers that I loved having were Gus Stewart in sixth grade and Chick Doe in fifth grade. They both kindled in me a love of history and instilled an ethic of hard work. Also, Mr. Stelluto in seventh grade taught advanced algebra in a very compelling and heady way.  

Applewild Impact:
I look back on Applewild fondly. The teachers were generally excellent, and many of the students were very bright; together, this combination fostered an atmosphere in which academic achievement was valued and in which the students strove among themselves for individual excellence. At the same time, the best teachers tempered this competitive spirit by conveying an appreciation for learning as a shared project, and for the class as a moral community in which each student counted as much as every other, and in which everyone was to be treated with respect. At my professional best, these same values have informed my own teaching, and I think that I owe them, at least in part, to my Applewild experience. Beyond this, I would say that Applewild fostered in me a love of learning and an appreciation for the significance of good teaching which inspires me to this day in my own teaching and learning.

Posted: August 11, 2010

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