Richard Perry University Professor of Communications and Anthropology
When John L. Jackson, Jr. became the first Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor in 2006, he knew the opportunity was unparalleled. Jackson’s newly endowed position – combining his two passions, communications and anthropology –- empowered him to find practical and impactful ways to link the disciplines.
The experience is not unlike what he has accomplished as a documentary filmmaker delving into issues of race, class and popular culture. The National Humanities Center Fellow now sees his classroom as the "screen" on which he projects, and his students interpret, the intersection of these issues in the world.
"I came here because Penn isn’t willing to rest on its laurels. It’s re-imagining itself, trying to look at what academia should be for the 21st century," Jackson says. "You want to be at a place like that. Penn still reflects Franklin’s vision. It’s a place that naturally cultivates curiosity. Being an endowed professor in two schools makes you feel fully vested in both places, in the students there. It also awakens new possibilities for understanding the kind of questions that need to be asked – questions you simply can’t answer unless you take an interdisciplinary approach. When you have students of the Penn caliber, you can foster engagement around topics in a way few universities in the world can duplicate. Penn creates opportunities for faculty and students that other places can’t imagine."
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