From the Director

This article first appears in ISAW Newsletter 16, Fall 2016.

Alexander Jones
Interim Director and Professor of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity

As I embark on my term as Interim Director of ISAW, I cannot help being struck by the complex entity that it has come to be in the nine years since its foundation—in eight of which I have had the privilege of participating. We are, by a considerable margin, the smallest of New York University’s many schools; in terms of faculty, if we were a mere university department, we would be a smallish one. But we are active, and excel, in a spread of dimensions that function as essential implementations of our mission that it would be difficult to find paralleled in any academic institution even several times ISAW’s size.

One reason that we have been able to do this is that ISAW’s principal components, faculty, doctoral students, associated and visiting researchers, library, digital team, and exhibitions, interact and collaborate. Several of our exhibitions, including the soon-to-open Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity featured on this issue’s cover, have been curated or co-curated by ISAW faculty, research associates, and visiting research scholars; and at least three of our students will be involved in Time and Cosmos during its run. Again, one of our doctoral seminars this fall, “Introduction to Digital Humanities for the Ancient World,” is being team-taught by Tom Elliott, our Associate Director of Digital Programs, our faculty colleague Sebastian Heath, and our librarian, David Ratzan. ISAW is about breaking down imagined barriers not just between ancient civilizations but also between present-day institutional cultures.

Life at ISAW is also shaped by a counterpoint of transitions taking place on distinct time-scales. A recent, and very happy, landmark in the evolution of our faculty is Sören Stark’s tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. Readers of his article in this issue on the excavations at Bash-tepa will vicariously share the “renewed sense of academic freedom” with which he was able to approach the first full-scale season of fieldwork at the site. The one or two years during which we come to know our visiting research scholars seem all too fleeting, but fortunately our “VRS alumni” often drop by ISAW and keep connected with us in other ways. Our doctoral students are part of our community for more than half a decade, long enough to experience multiple intellectual metamorphoses. Last year we celebrated our first graduations; this fall our incoming cohort of five students is the largest ISAW has ever had. Like every year so far, ISAW’s tenth year promises to be always busy, and always stimulating.