The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship accepts only 3.7 percent of applicants annually — and next year, two Cornell professors will transition from Ithaca to Boston, pursuing advanced intersectional studies in the fields of government and architecture as a part of the highly competitive program.
Prof. Suzanne Mettler Ph.D. ’94, the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the Department of Government and Prof. Esra Akcan, architecture and Director of the Cornell Institute for European Studies, were among around 50 scholars and artists selected for the prestigious program at Harvard University during the 2019-2020 academic year.
The fellowship, founded in 1999, is a year-long program designed to foster an “interdisciplinary, international community” of fellows from fields in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences who aim to solve today’s most challenging problems.
Mettler and Akcan will join a network of over 950 prior fellows; past recipients include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and author Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Mettler, who was also awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship earlier this month, plans to finish a book that examines historic periods of crisis in American democracy to compare it to the present state of affairs. Additionally, Mettler intends to work on two new, related projects — ”one on the growing rural-urban divide in American politics, and another on the relationship between mass and elite political polarization,” she said.
“When I think of the dream sabbatical, it is a period of time that jolts a scholar out of an everyday routine and challenges her to think more expansively,” Mettler wrote in a statement to The Sun.
Akcan will be working on a research proposal entitled “Right-to-Heal: Architecture in Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster Societies.” She plans to craft her work into a book that explores the role of architecture in restoring society after times of intense upheaval and internal conflict as well as in transitional justice.
“We are living in a moment of uncertain, grande and global challenges,” said Akcan, citing climate change, the decline of democracy, economic meltdowns and mass migrations as prime examples.
“Living through some of these conflicts both in the US and in my birth country Turkey, I came to realize that sometimes imagining the future for the reconstitution of society is a very meaningful type of resistance for the present,” said Akcan.
She hopes to do this through the lens of architecture, stating that she wants to “critically expose architecture’s complicit role in these conflicts” and demonstrate its “creative potential” in restoring societies after conflict.
Akcan looks forward to her sabbatical and the Radcliffe fellowship, as both will offer an opportunity to garner new perspectives through interaction with scholars in other disciplines.
“Academic life encourages scholars to take sabbaticals periodically because this is very useful for all parties involved — for the scholar’s own work, for the students, and the university,” Akcan said.