Teach a Seminar | Newberry

Teach a Seminar

The Large Lark, The Little Yellow Star-Flower, Mark Catesby. VAULT Case oversize W 764 .15. 1731. Newberry Library.

We always seek new instructors and courses to enhance the Adult Education Seminars program! Please read on for detailed information about the program and how to apply to teach at the Newberry.

The Application

The Seminars Program accepts seminar proposals through the Newberry’s Slideroom application portal. We recommend reading through the submission form and the information below before beginning your proposal. The Seminars Program is currently accepting proposals for the Summer 2020 term which runs from June 9 through August 15. The deadline for proposals for the Summer 2020 term is February 1.

If you have any questions about the proposal process or developing a seminar for the Newberry, please contact the Seminars Program Manager, Katie Dyson, at dysonk@newberry.org.

Program Overview

The Newberry Seminars Program presents a stimulating, affordable series of non-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 150 not-for-credit, adult education courses annually over three terms. Seminars may differ in size, duration, 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 schedule a class on an alternate day.

Instructor Payment

Instructor payment depends on the number of persons enrolled in the class and the cost of the course. Seminar instructors receive 53% of all tuition collected for their class. The Newberry uses the remaining 47% of tuition fees to cover administrative costs.


Seven registrations are required for a class to run. If a seminar fails to reach a minimum of seven registrations before our early registration deadline (one week before the first day of the term), the seminar will be canceled and all participants will be fully refunded. The instructor is required to teach the seminar if it reaches seven registrations prior to the early registration deadline. In some cases, a seminar may be offered with fewer than seven registrations at the discretion of the Seminars Manager and the instructor.

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. The Seminars Program is also for a general public audience and participants are assumed to have no previous exposure to the subject matter.

Seminar proposals should be relevant to the study of the humanities, creative, and intellectually and methodologically sophisticated. They should clearly define the structure of the course both intellectually and logistically, and inclusion of a weekly course outline is highly encouraged.

Instructors are not required to have an advanced degree in the field in which they wish to teach.

Generally, it is recommended that proposals avoid topics that are narrowly specialized or that require large amounts of reading or photocopying, or the purchase of many texts.

Proposal Review and Selection

A committee of Newberry staff and seminar instructors evaluates proposals for each term; 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.

Application Deadlines

Winter/Spring term: September 1
Summer term: February 1
Fall term: May 1

Application Requirements

Each seminar proposal must contain the following components:

  1. The Seminar Proposal Form, which collects personal information and basic information about your course. It will also ask you to list your teaching availability, with regard to dates and time slots. Please indicate when you are available, as well as your preferences within that availability.
  2. Seminar Description (2-3 pages). This description should include a general overview of the seminar, delineating your approach to the topic (about one page); a seminar outline or syllabus, including weekly reading assignments, discussion topics, and the way(s) you intend to approach them; and an explanation of how the proposed seminar relates to the Newberry’s holdings. Please see our list of Core Collections for more details on specific collections.
  3. Descriptive Blurb (75 words maximum) to be used for advertising purposes. Please also include a one-sentence bio of yourself. This description may be edited for length, publication, and promotional purposes.
  4. Your Curriculum Vitae/Resume: Your CV or resume should highlight relevant job experience (particularly teaching experience), research, publications, and other activities.
  5. Required Readings and Materials List: This list will be filled out as part of the Seminar Proposal Webform, and will contain the texts and materials your seminar participants will need. You must include ISBN-13 numbers for all books. The Newberry Bookstore will stock and sell most Seminar books. Alternatively, a selection of excerpts and shorter readings can be distributed by the instructor or the Newberry. 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. For more information about these logistics, please review the Readings and Materials Guide.
  6. First Readings List: These will be filled out as part of the Seminar Proposal Webform. Please specify reading or preparation for your participants before the course’s first meeting.
  7. A/V Equipment Needs: You will fill this out as part of the Seminar Proposal Webform. Please check off 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.

If you have questions, please call the Seminars Manager, Katie Dyson, at (312)-255-3533 or email dysonk@newberry.org.