Raoul Birnbaum appointed faculty director of Honors Programs

Professor Raoul Birnbaum, recent holder of the Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in History of Art and Visual Culture, has been appointed to the position of faculty director of UCSC's Undergraduate Honors Programs.

The Faculty Director will focus on development and coordination of challenge programs for high-achieving undergraduates at all levels, said Richard Hughey, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, in announcing the appointment.

A priority for the position will be continued enhancement and growth of UCSC's first-year honors program, which is expanding to four college communities in Fall 2012. The director will also facilitate the description and development of honors pathways through majors and divisions for students who seek challenges beyond the basic requirements. Birnbaum will work in close collaboration with colleges, programs, Academic Senate committees, and with a broad range of individuals across campus, Hughey said.

On campus, Birnbaum is charter Honorary Member of the Golden Key Honour Society and member of the executive committee of Phi Beta Kappa. He also played a central role in development of the new first-year honors program as honors subcommittee chair during his time on the Academic Senate’s Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA), Hughey said. "Raoul brings outstanding scholarship, experience, and perspective to this position, having begun his studies as an honors major at the City University of New York, and holding faculty positions at Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Iowa prior to joining our campus," he added.

Students in the honors program at Cowell College are exceptionally positive about the experience. "The First-Year Honors Program provides me with an academic setting conducive to my passion for learning, where my teachers and fellow students challenge me to try harder and think beyond my everyday thoughts," said undergraduate Emily Healy. "I am immensely glad that the Honors Program required me to take Professor Birnbaum’s Chinese Approaches to Human Values, which has introduced me to ideas and methods of thought that I have never experienced before. Through the readings and class discussions I have learned about a different part of the world and also about myself."

Birnbaum is a multidisciplinary scholar of Buddhist studies with focus on China, where he has carried out extensive fieldwork within Buddhist communities. His writings in this field circulate widely and have appeared in six languages. Birnbaum's current book project, an expansion of his 2009 Hsüan Hua Memorial Lecture at Berkeley, considers a Buddhist ethic of engagement with the world as articulated in Chinese Buddhist scriptural and 19th century historical sources.