University of Wisconsin–Madison

Selected Comments from the 2009 Hurst Fellows


Kevin Arlyck

[T]he combination of a carefully selected group of thoughtful and engaged people, stimulating subject matter, and lots of time together to discuss it was well-designed [to]foster a strong sense of community among the fellows.  Above all it is this experience of being in a cohort of individuals with a shared sense of purpose that I will retain.  Those two weeks in Madison will prove invaluable in building the kind of close friendships and professional relationships that can make a career in academia so rewarding.  In particular, the relatively rare opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with colleagues from other institutions is what I believe will benefit me the most. . . .  I was impressed by how seamless everything was-it was a real treat to have pretty much everything taken care of so that we could focus on the intellectual work at hand.  ... I would be remiss in not taking a moment to explain what a fantastic leader Barbara was.  She was exceptionally friendly and welcoming, making us all feel comfortable from the start, but at the same time she was perfectly willing to challenge us and disagree with us when she thought it necessary.  She was generous with her advice and counsel while never making us feel as if we were anything less than peers.

Lisa Blee

As a scholar new to the field of law and society, I found the Hurst Institute to offer challenging material in a supportive environment for learning.  After the intense discussions, I began to see what I was missing in my own work and the ways to incorporate law and society perspectives in the future. The discussions were demanding and dynamic and I was impressed with the intellectual rigor and generosity of the group of fellows. The workshops for individual work were especially interesting and a personal highlight.  I had never received such focused attention on my own work before and, although I am still processing all of the insightful suggestions, I know my book revisions will be immeasurably improved because of the Institute.

I thought the Institute was well organized and thoughtfully planned. There was a good mix of socializing and hard work, and Barbara Welke did a wonderful job of bringing people together and creating a respectful and fun group dynamic. 

Nancy Buenger

The Hurst Institute was one of the most profoundly rewarding academic experiences of my career. ... My intellectual horizons have been immeasurably broadened and my head is spinning with new ideas for research and teaching. I particularly relished the global dimensions of the sessions, which encompassed Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and US legal history. Please do continue to invite fellows/scholars with a wide range of geographic interests.

Most of all, I have benefited from the highest standard of integrated scholarship, teaching, and mentoring. The Institute’s emphasis on creating an environment conducive to learning, which looks beyond the written page to the forging of productive, ongoing relationships between scholars, is unique. I plan to emulate this model in my professional career. Barbara Welke is one of the most exceptional scholar/teacher/mentors I have ever had the privilege to study with.

Melissa Hayes

The Institute in Legal History was truly a one-of-a-kind experience, both in terms of professional development and intellectual engagement.  Here I met a wonderful group of people who offered stimulating conversations, astute suggestions for my own research, and friendship.     

Kelly Kennington

The most valuable aspect of the Hurst for me was getting to meet and interact with a bright group of scholars at similar stages of our careers.  I am confident that the friends I met through the Institute will remain important professional contacts in the years ahead.  At the end of the two weeks, many of us had made plans to reconvene at conferences in the coming year, which I think is a testament to how much we enjoyed learning from one another and engaging in each other's scholarship.  Another aspect of the Institute that I especially appreciated was the chance to read and engage with the scholarship of our guest scholars and our lead scholar, Barbara Welke.  . . . Each of these fine scholars, including Barbara Welke, shared with the Hurst fellows a work in progress, and I found it incredibly useful to see how these individuals approach their scholarship at its various stages before publication.

Daniel LaChance

Dissertation writing is often a lonely affair. After two years of working on my dissertation, the Hurst Institute was a wonderful way to return to an intellectual community and examine classic and new legal history scholarship alongside eleven other early career scholars. I was deeply impressed by the degree of sophistication, insight, and generosity shown by my fellow participants to my work as well as the work of others. The diversity of interests and talents in the group was impressive, and it made the experience of sharing and getting feedback on my work immensely valuable.

Cynthia Nicoletti

The Hurst Institute was an absolutely wonderful experience.  I can honestly say that it reinvigorated my interest in legal history.  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the new work of our guest scholars with them, and the older classic work we read was also great.  Our discussion of my own project was immensely helpful to me, and the other fellows seemed to concur on this.  In general, the discussions our group had were some of the best and most interesting academic discussions I've ever experienced.  I also liked that the setting was somewhat informal, and no sense of competition developed among the group.

 Gautham Rao

The Hurst Summer Institute in the Institute for Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School is a uniquely rewarding atmosphere for young legal historians.  I have had many friends who were past fellows and each explained to me how wonderful the Hurst was.  But nothing could prepare me for the intellectual excitement of my two weeks in Madison.  Barbara Welke, who directed the curriculum and guided our discussions, was an amazing mentor who painstakingly got to know each of our projects.  Under Barbara's leadership, our discussions went deep into the historical and historiographical interstices of classic readings and new interpretations of legal history.  Barbara also arranged for some of the more preeminent legal historians currently in the field to give fascinating presentations to the fellows.  Each presenter--Matthew Sommer from Stanford University, Christine Desan from Harvard Law School, Risa Goluboff  from UVA Law School--brought different methodologies and thematic interests, and stimulated wide-ranging, critical discussions of craft and historiography.  We were also lucky to enjoy a joint presentation by Lawrence Friedman and Robert Gordon on the final day of the Institute.  

My own work greatly benefited from this entire experience.  Revisiting the classic texts of legal history, and having my work critiqued by a unique gathering of peers, gave me the opportunity to make critical choices about where I saw my work going in the future.  Several of the fellows have already remained in touch, exchanging work for review, and making plans to do so in the future.  I hope to be able to repay the Institute for Legal Studies in some way, shape or form, down the road, for all that I gained from my two weeks in Madison.

Karen Tani

My two weeks at the Hurst Institute were one of the highpoints of my academic career.  Upon reflection, I keep coming back to three reasons:

(1) The sense of community that the Institute created:  Whether because of the structure of the Institute, the leadership by Barbara, Pam, Howie, and others, or just a fortunate convergence of individuals, I developed the sense that I was part of a community.  Each member of the group seemed invested, both in some larger collaborative project and in each other's growth.  As a result, I felt comfortable sharing my work, engaging with challenging material, and asking questions.  

(2) Professional development:  I have often felt that I don't know enough about how to connect the work I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to my larger goals (e.g., a fulfilling job, publications that I'm proud of, a network of supportive and interesting colleagues).  The Institute provoked and enabled many conversations about professional development that were invaluable to me.

(3) Mentorship and friendship: I think the most important thing I'll take away from the Institute is the personal relationships I was able to develop.  I expect that I will trade work and exchange ideas with many of the people I met here, and that I will turn to the larger network of Hurst-affiliated scholars when I need professional guidance.  I also know that when I am in a position to mentor more junior scholars, the memory of this experience (Barbara was so wonderful!) will encourage me to be generous.

Hannah Weiss Muller

...[T]he feedback and discussion from workshopping my piece at Hurst have been the most helpful in my time as a graduate student. . . .  All in all, I have gained a more nuanced picture of approaches in legal history, been exposed to models of writing and presentation that will continue to influence me for years to come . . . I found that the group of fellows assembled by the selection committee worked wonderfully together.  The range of periods and interests represented merely augmented the breadth of comments.  Being one of the two non-Americanists present, I can assure the committee that I got an immense amount out of the Institute and that Barbara's efforts to bring together legal historians working in a range of periods and fields was especially welcome.

The work-in-progress sessions with visiting scholars seemed to generate the most productive discussions.  The opportunity to interact with and to practice offering feedback to such established scholars as Risa Goluboff, Christine Desan, and Matthew Sommers was incredibly useful.  Not only were these individuals each warm, receptive, and enthusiastic, but they helped Hurstians think about presentation styles, ways to answer questions, and ways to formulate research agendas.  I particularly enjoyed our discussion of Barbara Welke's work-in-progress and revise-and-resubmit.  Not only was the conversation professionally useful, but Barbara's discussion of her work was a model for thinking about the stages, excitements, and challenges of archival research.

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