Yesterday, Associate Professor of History and Chair of International Studies Magnus Bernhardsson was announced as the College’s next Gaudino Scholar. The current Gaudino Scholar, Will Dudley, professor of philosophy, will become provost of the College in July. Bernhardsson is the 14th Gaudino Scholar since the program’s inception in 1982.
The scholarship is designed to encourage different forms of learning, particularly taking note of opportunities to explore and experience subject matter outside one’s comfort zone. “We are constantly rethinking the notion of uncomfortable learning and want to find ways to keep learning interesting and effective,” Bernhardsson said.
The position is a three-year term, dedicated toward advancing the spirit of Robert Gaudino, former political science professor at the College. Gaudino’s untimely death in 1974 spurred a group of students dedicated to preserving Gaudino’s legacy at the College to create the Gaudino Scholar program.
“It’s in memory of what seems to have been a very extraordinary person and a phenomenal teacher who touched the lives of many students while here,” Bernhardsson said of the position.
“I hope to provide opportunities for students to interact with each other and confront and engage the current big issues in our society that we haven’t resolved,” Bernhardsson continued. “I want us to consider who we are and what makes us uncomfortable in society and at the College.”
In pursuit of this goal, Bernhardsson has themed his term as Gaudino Scholar under the concept of danger, which in many ways is related to his professorial work as well. At the College, Bernhardsson teaches courses focused on the modern Middle East and Iraq in particular. This semester, he is teaching “Movers and Shakers in the Middle East” and “Nation Building: The Making of the Modern Middle East.”
“I was inspired by the protests in the Middle East where a lot of young people college-aged put their lives at risk and were willing to die for the hope of a better future,” Bernhardsson said. “I was moved and inspired by these images from Tunisia to Egypt, and I’m thinking about how we can harness this in the modern age.”
Bernhardsson hopes to reassess the ideas and consequences of danger within the context of the liberal arts. He plans on encouraging “people to rethink and reconsider who we are and who we want to be,” he said.
The selection as Gaudino Scholar is one of many merits Bernhardsson has earned throughout his work at the College: He also garnered fellowships from sources such as the Oakley Center and the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. In 2007, he won the Nelson Bushnell Prize for excellence in teaching. He earned his B.A. in political science from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and an M.A. in religion and a Ph.D. in history from Yale.
Bernhardsson is eager to craft his own path amongst a field of distinguished Gaudino Scholars throughout the years. He believes each past scholar has brought something new to the table. “Different scholars come in with different ideas,” he said, “so the program is constantly evolving, which is exciting.”
As Gaudino Scholar, Bernhardsson will drive the community to “think and rethink” critical issues of the moment. In the quest to achieve his goal, “I’m looking forward to taking on this challenge and working with students, faculty and alumni,” he said.