All posts by Aliosha Bielenberg

Blogging in the Open Curriculum

Please check out my blog, Aliosha’s Notes!

I love Brown. There’s something in the air here that fosters real collaboration in a challenging but supportive environment. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the Open Curriculum, which entrusts us with designing our own course of study. Every semester, I comb through the thousands of available courses to figure out the perfect combination, only to change most of my decisions during shopping period. As a result, any given semester features a disparate set of classes that might share nothing — no classmates, no readings — in common. While I cherish this freedom, it does mean that sometimes we lose track of the many ways our diverse choices actually overlap. Unlike curricula at other universities — where courses are designed to complement each other — at Brown I am often the only one who realizes the fascinating ways my courses intersect.

For me, blogging is a way to spark connections between these courses, and more broadly to reflect on everything I’m doing. One particular example springs to my mind. In Spring 2018 I took SOC 0310: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship, ARCH 2102: Postcolonial Matters, and RELS 0835: Edward Said and Cornel West. One week began with a discussion of Gramsci in my archaeology seminar, where I learned about his idea of the “organic intellectual.” Just the next day, we discussed Cornel West’s adaptation of this idea in my Religious Studies class. The day after that, we met for my engaged scholarship seminar and I couldn’t help but bring in the ideas I had been exposed to elsewhere, even though our readings were quite different. Unfortunately, no-one else was in my same position of being in all three classes: there was no space where I could really develop the links I saw between these courses. So, where did I turn to connect these disparate yet intersecting ideas? My blog. I wrote a post on the subject that helped me clarify my thoughts on engaged scholarship, one that I continue to look back on.

This exemplifies why a blog is for me the perfect complement to the Open Curriculum. As much as I admire the freedom Brown gives us, I sometimes yearn for a greater ability to connect the many disparate things I do in a given semester. Because it is an open canvas that I can fill as I like, a blog is the perfect solution.