Teach a Seminar

Image of James Joyce. Midwest MS Butcher, Bx. 41, Fl.#1727.
Image of James Joyce. Midwest MS Butcher, Bx. 41, Fl.#1727.

Interested in teaching a class for the Newberry Seminars Program? We are always looking for new instructors and courses. Please read on to learn more about the program and how to apply to teach at the Newberry.

Program Overview

Acting in the spirit of the Newberry’s Lyceum Association, which brought lectures and classes to Chicago more than a century ago, the Newberry Seminars Program presents a stimulating, affordable series of non-credit credit classes in the humanities for life-long learners. The Seminars Program encourages intellectual engagement through study of the humanities and use of the library’s vast collections.

The Newberry offers roughly 140 not-for-credit, adult education courses annually over three terms: fall, winter/spring, and summer. Seminars may differ in size, duration (generally no longer than ten weeks; eight weeks in the summer term), cost, and format. Seminars are grounded in humanities-oriented approaches to the material, and relate to some aspect of the Newberry’s collections. They must also be able to be accommodated by the library’s facilities.

The Seminars Program includes three terms:

  • Winter/Spring: mid-February through April
  • Summer: June through early August
  • Fall: mid-September through early December

During the term, classes are offered once a week during the day and evenings from Tuesday through Thursday, and during the morning and afternoon on Saturdays. Seminars are scheduled in consideration of each instructor’s preferences; however, due to room availability, we may have to accommodate a class on an alternate day.

Instructor payment depends on the number of persons enrolled in the class and the cost of the course. Seminar instructors receive 60% of all tuition collected for their class. The Newberry covers administrative costs with 40% of each tuition fee.

If the seminar fails to reach a minimum of seven registrations before the first class meeting, the seminar will be canceled. The instructor is required to teach the seminar if it reaches seven registrations prior to the first class meeting. In some cases, a seminar may be offered with fewer than seven registrations at the option of the instructor.

We offer Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDUs) for Illinois teachers on selected Seminars. To be eligible to offer a class for CPDUs, the instructor must hold the highest degree available in her or his field (usually a PhD) and he or she must be willing to track and report the attendance of the seminar participants seeking the credits. Offering CPDUs is completely optional and does not affect the Newberry’s selection or acceptance of proposals.

Developing a Course Proposal

The Seminars Program is designed to demonstrate the value of humanistic inquiry among intellectually curious adults. Program instructors and participants strive to create a forum in which discourse prospers; courses rely heavily on discussion and collaboration. Proposals should be relevant to the study of the humanities, creative, and intellectually and methodologically sophisticated. Proposals should clearly define the structure of the course both intellectually and logistically. Instructors are not required to have an advanced degree in the field in which they wish to teach. The Seminars Program is also for a general public audience and participants are assumed to have no previous exposure to the subject matter. Generally, avoid topics that are narrowly specialized or that require large amounts of reading or photocopying, or the purchase of many texts.

A committee of Newberry staff and seminar instructors evaluates proposals; for this reason, a complete and thorough application is vital. The Seminars Committee uses four criteria to evaluate proposals:

  1. Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of the subject, both in their CVs or personal statements, and in their proposals.
  2. Proposals must exhibit a sound, humanities-oriented methodology. The applications should approach the material in a critical way that interrogates the ideas, assumptions, terms, or rhetoric of a text, pieces together the details of an event into a coherent narrative, or places the text or event in historical context.
  3. Proposals should appeal to a general audience. The seminar topic and readings should not be so esoteric that no one has heard of them
  4. Proposals should relate to the library’s collections.

The Seminars Manager, Anna Dozor, is available to discuss any questions you have about the proposal process, from the idea stage to the finished proposal. She can be reached at (312) 255-3700 or dozora@newberry.org.

The Application

The Seminars Office only accepts applications online, through the following web form. While the form has most of the same fields and categories as our old application form, there have been some updates and additions, so please review it carefully. As always, please contact the Seminars Office with questions.

Seminar Proposal Form.

The proposal form includes the following sections:

  1. Personal information and basic information about your course.
  2. Seminar description (2-3 pages): submit a description that includes a general overview of the seminar that delineates your approach to the topic (about one page); a seminar outline or syllabus, including weekly reading assignments and the way(s) you intend to approach the individual readings; and an explanation of how the proposed seminar relates to the Newberry’s holdings. The library’s collections span the history and culture of western Europe from the Middle Ages to the mid-twentieth century and the Americas from contact between Europeans and Native Americans. Its strengths include European discovery, exploration, and settlement of the Americas; the American West; local history, family history, and genealogy; literature and history of the Midwest; Native American history and literature; the Renaissance; Portuguese and Brazilian history; the history of cartography; the history and theory of music; the history of printing; and linguistics. The collections number 1.5 million printed titles, five million manuscript pages, and 500,000 historic maps. See Core Collections for more details on specific collections.
  3. Catalog copy (75 words): please write a short description of your seminar of no more than 75 words for advertising purposes, including a one-sentence identification of yourself. This description will be edited for publication and promotional purposes.
  4. Availability: let us know when you could teach, as well as your preferences within that availability.
  5. Curriculum vitae/resume: please provide a recent CV or resume that highlights relevant job experience, particularly teaching experience, research, publications, and activities.
  6. Required materials list: list the texts and materials your seminar participants will need (including ISBN-13 numbers for all books) and how you recommend that they be obtained (especially if not readily available in print). The Newberry Bookstore will stock and sell most Seminar books. Alternatively, you can prepare original photocopies and assemble a course packet; the Seminars Office will have it reproduced for distribution at cost on the first day of class. Please note that we will not consider proposals that require out of print texts or large amounts of photocopying; check to see that the texts you have listed are in print. Likewise, we will not consider proposals that ask participants to read more than 200 pages of fictional prose per week or more than 75 pages of poetry or non-fictional prose per week.
  7. First readings: please specify reading or preparation you expect from your participants before the course’s first meeting.
  8. References: if you have taught with the Newberry Library Seminars in the last five years, you do not need to provide references. For newer or returning instructors, list the names of two people we may contact who can provide an opinion of your proposed seminar and who are familiar with you and your previous work and teaching experience.
  9. A/V Equipment: describe the audio/visual equipment you might need for your course. To learn more about the A/V setup in seminar classrooms, please refer to the Seminars A/V Guide.

Download a printable version of the application instructions. If you have questions, contact Anna Dozor, Seminars Manager at (312) 255-3700 or dozora@newberry.org.

Application Deadlines

Spring term: October 1
Summer term: February 1
Fall term: May 1