Nahyan Fancy is an associate professor of Middle East and comparative history at DePauw University. Recently, he was offered membership to The Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. This week, The DePauw had a chance to sit down with Professor Fancy and learn more about him.
The DePauw: Could you talk a little bit about your background?
Nahyan Fancy: I was born and raised in Dubai… Dubai being United Arabic Emirates. I did my schooling in the British system of education, which included the Ordinary levels, and then they’ve got something called the Advanced level examinations. Then [I] went to an undergraduate liberal arts college, Knox College, in Illinois… Got very interested in history and philosophy of science through a course in economics that was taught by a post-modern Marxist… Went for my masters to University of Toronto, and my PhD at Notre Dame.
TDP: How did you come across DePauw?
NF: So DePauw had a position that was open amongst many others that were open when I was on the job market. I hadn’t finished my PhD yet, but I was nearing it, so the idea was I could go on the job market, and if I get it, you know, hopefully I’ll finish the dissertation. If not, then I’ll try to take another year to complete it. DePauw was one of the institutions I highlighted because I had a great experience at a liberal arts college myself as a student, and so I always wanted to teach at a liberal arts college… In this particular case, [DePauw] fit in many ways. It was not just Middle-Eastern history, but it was comparative history.”
TDP: What would say you enjoy the most in being in a Liberal-Arts atmosphere?
NF: The part I enjoyed most as a student, and that I get to enjoy to some extent as a faculty member, is a vibrant intellectual community, where… you have access to professors, learn about their research, learn about, you know, all kinds of things by having these intense conversations with them with regards to developments that are taking place research wise in their field as well as in the world at large… I’m the only historian of science in the university [but] I interact with faculty from many other disciplines whose research intersects with my own interests resulting in amazing conversations and providing me with new questions and perspectives all the time.
TDP: Can you go into more depth about The Institute for Advance Study?
NF: Basically it’s a bunch of scholars… from all over the world. You can kind of talk about it as kind of a scholar’s liberal arts intellectual community. I guess that’s one way to talk about it. It’s quite prestigious. It was established particularly as a place that would just encourage thinking…It’s supposed to just encourage curiosity-driven research… without thinking too much about funding, applicability or any of those kinds of issues that may bog someone down from conducting some kind of inquiry.
TDP: What advice would you give DePauw students?
NF: I think I would request students to take more advantage of inculcating their learning; spend more time speaking to professors after class, coming to office hours, doing more than what may be the bear minimum to…basically get the grade… The intellectual community exists and is waiting to be harnessed, and if they don’t make the most of it, they will regret it once they leave.