Bethel professor receives grant for a new leisure course

May 15, 2013 | 11 a.m.

News | Stephen Chang for The Clarion

Bethel professor receives grant for a new leisure course

Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers

Professor Dan Ritchie from Bethel’s English department was recently awarded a $23,089 Enduring Questions Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEH is an independent federal agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting education ventures that promote the study of humanities.

When asked about how he came to the idea of applying for the grant, Ritchie said, “I didn’t start out trying to apply for a grant. Three years ago in 2010, I was on the panel in Washington, D.C. that decided who was recommended for these awards. In the succeeding years, I taught a lot about Alexis de Tocqueville’s work, 'Democracy of America,' and the importance of work. From this, I drew on the idea of work versus leisure.” Ritchie also gave credit to Debb Sullivan-Trainor, the associate dean of general education and faculty development, who not only helped him with the grant, but sent the necessary documents to the NEH for processing.

Ritchie will be using the funds he has been awarded to develop and offer a new "P" course titled What is Good Leisure? in which students will discern the nature and meaning of the word “leisure.” Ritchie hopes that the class will present questions to students about how they spend their time when they are not working or fulfilling their obligations. He notes that, “While playing a video game may be relaxing, it is certainly not the same as, say, volunteering or doing something that is self-fulfilling … in some ways, a liberal education is leisure ... Physical training, performing, listening to or playing a musical instrument or engaging in activities such as church are all examples of how one can fulfill oneself and gain a sense of accomplishment; this is leisure. In a democracy, it is critical that citizens spend their time doing worthy civic activities.”

By challenging Bethel students to redefine their definition of leisure, Ritchie hopes that they will not only be able to serve the community around them, but also gain a sense of personal satisfaction and inner growth.

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