Sad to see that Gary Jacobsohn is leaving Williams for the University of Texas. I had Jacobsohn as a professor for Political Science 101 fall of freshmen year. I rememeber thing how cool it was to have the chair of the department as a professor. (Stephen Lewis, chair of the economics department at the time, was also my teacher for ECON 101.) It is simply inconceivable at a place like Harvard that a freshmen might know, and be known by, the chairs of two departments.
Jacobsohn, at least 18 years ago, did a great job in 101. His exams, a midterm and a final, were both masterpieces, clearly separating those who had done the reading from those who hadn’t while also forcing us to think hard about the issues in the course. His final was one of the few exams that I ever walked out of smarter than when I walked in. Don’t believe me? Well, jduge for yourself:
See here for the big version. Political science junkies will recongize the reference to “root method” as coming from Charles Lindblom’s classic article, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through'”. See a synopsis here. Looking back, the reading list for 101 was remarkably well-chosen, credit for which might go to the department as a whole as well as Jacobsohn in particular.
So, on one hand, I am sad to see Jacobsohn go. On the other, I think that being a Williams professor, attacking with relish and verve the classroom discussions that form the core of a Williams education, at least outside of Division III, is something that, after 30 years, one might grow tired of. So, to the extent that Professor Jacobsohn is looking for new challenges, I can only wish him well. If every Williams professor were as skilled as he at the art of teaching, the College would be a better place.