Prandium lunchtime seminar series puts learning on the menu

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 3:08pm
Carolyn Wong

Starting this semester, the Department of Historical Studies and the Historical Studies Students Society will be serving up some food for thought with the launch of Prandium: A Historical Studies UTM Lunchtime Seminar Series.

The first of six lunchtime lectures will be held on September 29; the rest will take place over the course of the fall and winter semesters.

Each seminar will feature cutting-edge historical research from a graduate student followed by an informal discussion over lunch. Prandium, which means midday meal in Latin, will bring faculty, staff, and students - both graduate and undergraduate - together to lunch and learn.

Prandium enhances the student experience at UTM by creating a place for enthusiastic members of our community to gather together to share some collegial food for thought, both literally and metaphorically, says Professor Mairi Cowan of the Department of Historical Studies. It also showcases some of the most exciting historical research by University of Toronto graduate students-an excellent way to show potential applicants what they can do here.

Cowan, who was involved with the development and planning of Prandium, chose the name because sharing a meal is part of the experience and Latin is a language that seems to add a certain academic gravitas to any event.

The idea for Prandium came out of a brainstorming session between faculty and staff on how to foster a vibrant intellectual culture and add a feeling of community within the Department of Historical Studies.

After drafting a successful proposal for funding from the Graduate Expansion Fund, organizers of Prandium put out the call for papers to graduate students associated with any of the departments from which teaching assistants are drawn. Thirty submissions were received for six coveted spots.

In making our selection, we were looking for individual papers that were well conceived for a twenty-minute presentation in front of an audience of curious non-specialists. We were also looking to assemble a group of papers that as a whole would represent the breadth of our interdisciplinary department, says Cowan. It was a very difficult decision to make...we had to turn down several excellent submissions.

Cassandra Lord, one of the chosen presenters for the winter semester, said the call for papers piqued her interest because it would provide an opportunity to present her research to a broad range of faculty and students.

As I am in the final stages of my dissertation, I spend most of my time in solitary writing mode - with my computer and my ideas. Having the experience of sharing my ideas in a venue such as Prandium, and engaging with other scholars and students will be beneficial, says Lord, a senior doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and the Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies at the Women and Gender Studies Institute. Part of being an academic is giving public lectures, and presenting your work to a larger audience, making yourself and your research visible, and allowing other critical exchanges to occur.

Lord will present a chapter from her dissertation titled Disrupting 'Official' Historical Queer Narratives: Pelau MasQUEERade in the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade on February 9, 2011.

Paul Lawrie, a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Toronto, is scheduled to present from his dissertation titled Measuring Men for the Work of War: Making Racial Types through Wartime Conscription in the US Army 1917-1919 on January 18, 2011, just two months before he makes a similar presentation to the Organization of American Historians.

I thought [Prandium] would be a good warm up for that, he says. Prandium offers a friendly and nurturing environment in the fact that it's at my home institution and hopefully one or two of my committee members will be there to help me through and ask me challenging questions. I have presented at the university before and it has always been a positive experience.

In addition to the opportunity to hone their presentation skills and share their findings with a supportive audience, the chosen students also receive a $150 prize and the chance to note the experience on their CVs.

Prandium also offers benefits to the faculty, staff and undergrad students who attend.

Faculty members are delighted by the opportunity to showcase the work of their own graduate students, to bring their undergraduate classes to the lectures, and to meet and discuss stimulating topics, as the format of the series is deliberately interactive and participatory, says Professor Shafique Virani, chair of the Department of Historical Studies. And staff members who were intimately involved with development of the proposal are eager to attend, as they're quite curious to learn more about the research of their faculty colleagues and the students with whom they interact every day.