Teach a Seminar | Newberry

Teach a Seminar

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Teaching at the Newberry

Our Adult Education Seminars Program always seeks new instructors and seminar topics to enhance the program. If you are interested in teaching a seminar at the Newberry, please read on for more information about the program and how to propose a seminar.

Upcoming Term

The seminars program is now accepting proposals for the Summer 2022 term! The deadline for proposals is Wednesday, February 16. The winter/spring term will run from June through August, with some seminars taking place only in the building and others only online. There is space in the submission form to indicate interest/availability to teach either virtually or in person. We accept proposals through the Newberry’s SlideRoom application portal. Please read through the submission form and the information below before beginning your proposal.

Questions? Want to join the mailing list for upcoming CFPs? Please reach out to Sarah Wilson, Seminars Manager, at wilsons@newberry.org.

Program Overview

The Newberry’s Adult Education Seminars Program offers a diverse and accessible array of non-credit courses in the humanities for the public. The seminars provide participants with a unique opportunity to rigorously engage the humanities and explore the library’s vast collections.

The Newberry offers over 150 seminars annually, ranging in size, duration, cost, and format. Seminars are grounded in the humanities and relate to the Newberry’s mission and/or collections.


We currently offer seminars in three terms throughout the year:

  • Winter/Spring: February through May
  • Summer: June through August
  • Fall: September through December

Seminars take place in the afternoons and evenings from Tuesday through Thursday and throughout the day on Saturdays. We schedule seminars in consideration of instructor availability and the needs of the seminars program and the Newberry.


Instructor compensation is based on the number of participants enrolled in the seminar. Seminar instructors receive 50% of all tuition paid for their seminar. The remaining tuition fees support administration of the program.


Seminars must meet a minimum enrollment of seven participants in order to run. If a seminar does not meet the minimum enrollment, the seminar will be canceled and all tuition will be fully refunded. A seminar with fewer than seven registrations may be offered at the discretion of the program manager and the instructor.

Developing a Proposal

Our Adult Education Seminars are designed to share the value of the humanities with an intellectually curious, non-specialist public. We strive to create classroom communities that foster conversation, collaboration, creativity, and an open exchange of knowledge.

Seminar proposals should be related to the humanities in content and/or in creative or critical method and offer a sophisticated and engaging approach to the material. Each proposal should clearly identify a pedagogical and/or methodological approach to the topic and include a detailed syllabus or course outline, including readings and activities for each class session.

While the proposal must include a resume or CV demonstrating relevant experience, instructors are not required to hold an advanced degree in the field in which they wish to teach. We encourage artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, performers, directors, and other arts and humanities practitioners to propose seminars or workshops.

Proposal Review

A Review Committee evaluates proposals each term. In addition to the needs and goals of the program and the Newberry, the Review Committee uses four criteria to evaluate seminar proposals:

  1. Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of the subject and relevant experience, both in their CVs/resumes and proposals.
  2. Proposals must exhibit a sound, humanities-oriented methodology. The applications should approach the material in a critical way that explores the ideas, assumptions, value, or rhetoric of a literary or cultural object; interrogates the narratives of events or historical moments; or places texts, events, art, and/or material objects in context.
  3. Proposals should appeal to a general audience and demonstrate the value of humanistic inquiry.
  4. Proposals should serve the Newberry Library’s mission, collections, and audience.

Call for Proposals

While the Newberry accepts proposals for seminars in topics across the humanities, we are especially interested in proposals in the following areas:​

  • Chicago interest topics (especially related to the Newberry’s Chicago and Midwest collections), including Chicago neighborhood histories, arts, music, literary culture, print history and graphic design, food and drink, strikes and labor movements, railroads and transportation, politics, the Great Migration, environment and geography, the World’s Columbian Exhibition, prohibition, etc.
  • Medical humanities, disability studies, history of medicine, illness and disease, aging, ethics, death and dying, embodiment, immunity, contagion, etc.
  • Language instruction, including Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Latin, Greek, Arabic, etc.
  • Writing workshops, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, short stories, screenwriting, play writing, etc.
  • Humanities skills, including grant-writing, writing for the public, podcasting, filmmaking, digital humanities skills, etc.
  • Experiential learning, collaborative, creative, hands-on, or project-based formats, including walking tours, site visits, design workshops, etc.

Proposal to Teach a Seminar

Submit your proposal through the Newberry’s SlideRoom application portal. You may submit up to three seminar proposals in the application form. If you need to access the form after it has been submitted or have any questions, please contact Sarah Wilson, Seminars Manager, at wilsons@newberry.org.


  • Winter/Spring term: Mid September
  • Summer term: Mid February
  • Fall term: Mid May

Application Requirements

Each application must include the following:

  1. Complete application information. This includes personal information, contact information, seminar proposal details, and scheduling availability.
  2. Seminar title, description, and instructor bio. These will be used in marketing and promotional materials and may be edited for length, grammar, and style. Seminar titles and descriptions should be short, accessible, and compelling to a wide audience.
  3. Seminar overview. This overview should delineate your approach to the topic; provide a detailed outline or syllabus, including weekly assignments, classroom activities, discussion topics, etc.; and include an explanation of how the proposed seminar relates to the Newberry’s mission, collections, and/or audience.
  4. C.V. or resume. Your C.V. or resume should highlight relevant experience (particularly teaching experience), research, publications, and other activities.
  5. Readings and/or materials list. Many (but not all) seminar instructors ask participants to complete reading assignments outside of class and/or require additional materials. Readings can take many forms and the most common are explained below. Please note that proposals requiring out-of-print texts, obscure or expensive texts or materials, large amounts of photocopying, or excessive reading (more than 200 pages of fictional prose or 75 pages of poetry or non-fictional prose per week) will not be considered.
    • Books – You may ask participants to purchase or acquire one or more books to read and/or suggest books for optional further reading. The Newberry Bookshop will stock all available required and optional books at the bookshop manager’s discretion. Please ensure books are in print, accessible (i.e., reasonably priced, written for a broad audience, etc.), and widely available before requiring them for a seminar. You must include ISBN numbers for all required and/or recommended books.
    • Digital Course Packet – If you have a selection of shorter materials you would like to use for your seminar, we can compile them as a digital course packet to share with participants. Participants will be given access to a shared digital folder with all of the seminar materials and may opt to print materials at their own expense.
    • Instructor-Distributed Materials – You will share any and all required reading materials directly with seminar participants.
  6. First readings and/or assignments. Please specify any reading, writing, or other assignments you would like participants to complete or bring to the first session of the proposed seminar.
  7. A/V equipment requests. Classrooms come equipped with a desktop computer with hardwired internet, DVD player, screen, projector, speakers, and laptop plug-ins to project from a laptop. Classrooms also have free wi-fi available. We have additional equipment available by request. Please indicate any additional equipment you would like to use in the application form.
  8. Collection presentations. The Newberry Library houses a vast and diverse collection of primary sources. If you are interested in arranging a collection presentation for your seminar, please indicate your interest in the webform and, if possible, include a list of collection items.


If you have questions, please contact the Seminars Manager, Sarah Wilson, at wilsons@newberry.org.