Message from the Director

Image of Michele LamontThese have been trying months for sure. Between the pandemic and the many challenges presented by the recent US elections, many of us have felt disoriented and slightly out of whack. Nevertheless, rather than scale back Weatherhead Center activities, we have continued to forge ahead thanks to our amazing staff and to the dedicated members of our academic community. 

The Weatherhead Scholars Program exemplifies such dedication, with twenty-five participants in virtual residence this term! Intellectual engagement remains high, and Scholars regularly share their ongoing research in presentations and in writing. You will see their publications listed in Epicenter, along with their short research reports summarizing new work and integrating COVID-19 into their scholarly efforts. Several Scholars presented their research in the Weatherhead Forum in September, on a panel titled “Pandemics Past and Present: Assessing the Economic, Political, and Social Implications.”

As you may know, Kathleen Molony is the Weatherhead Scholars Program director. I am sad to share the news that Kathy is retiring at the end of December 2020. She has worked at the Weatherhead Center for twenty-one years, during which she has guided and advised hundreds of researchers from around the world. A historian of Japan, Kathy has mentored scholars in many disciplines. Her experience and wise counsel are irreplaceable for our intellectual community. We will miss her energy and look forward to keeping connected with her for years to come. Please make sure to read Kathy’s goodbye letter to the WCFIA community. 

The Scholars Program isn’t the only group keeping busy. The Graduate Student Associates (GSA) Program, which includes twenty-four doctoral students from departments across the University, meets online every Friday to hear and offer constructive comments on their ongoing research. Erez Manela, Clare Putnam, and Ann Townes keep spirits high as they guide our GSAs toward completion of their degrees. Though they no longer enjoy in-person lunch together, this lively group has not slowed down during the pandemic. GSAs from the Sociology, History, and Government Departments presented a panel titled “The United States and China: Past, Present, Future” as part of the Weatherhead Forum this semester.

International studies thrive in many of our ongoing programs, projects, and research clusters as they continue to support research and hold events virtually. Since affiliates are now scattered across Boston and the globe, arranging convenient meeting times is a challenge—but we resist asking colleagues to Zoom in at unreasonable hours of the night. However, as one senior faculty participant pointed out, not traveling means one has more time to attend research presentations this semester. Being forced to slow down and work from home has increased participation in these research activities. In fact, interested researchers attend their preferred seminars and workshops with striking regularity, and attendance overall is higher than during a normal year. 

We have seen similar upticks in attendance at several of our special events. New this year were several special sessions of our Weatherhead Forum, where we broadened our scope to include more pressing topics in the world today, such as the public health crisis of COVID-19, transnational LGBTQ solidarity, and the US presidential election. If you missed any, you can find the video recordings of all these special sessions on our Weatherhead Forum page. Additional video recordings, including our annual comedy night—this year, it was in the afternoon—are available on our WCFIA Vimeo page

Thank you to the Weatherhead Center community for staying so engaged during this unprecedented time. I am routinely impressed at the resilience and intellectual energy consistently demonstrated by our community and have no doubt we will persevere and come out the other side even stronger. 

Michèle Lamont
Weatherhead Center Director

Photo credit: Dave Nelson