“Missouri in the World and the World in Missouri”: Public Lecture with UTS’ Tamson Pietsch

 11/12/2019

In conjunction with the Kinder Institute’s November 12 Advisory Board meeting, Tamson Pietsch, Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Sciences and Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at University of Technology Sydney, will tell the story of the “Floating University,” focusing on NYU Professor James E. Lough’s impetus for launching the first study-at-sea program in 1926, the backlash it received back home in the states, and the lessons universities might take from this history in 2019 (see abstract for the connection to Missouri). The talk will be held at 3:30pm in Cook Hall at the new Center for Missouri Studies.

Abstract

In September 1926, more than 500 Americans left New York for an eight-month educational cruise around the world on a ship called the “Floating University”. Francis G. Chance, from Centralia, Missouri, was among them. The voyage was the brainchild of NYU’s Professor of Psychology, James E. Lough who, frustrated with the strictures of lectures and book-learning, believed that American college students would learn about the world if their lessons were based on their own direct experience of it. As well as a full curriculum, he organised visits to foreign dignitaries, including Mussolini, Gandhi and the Pope, and stops in 47 ports. But Lough’s voyage was also beset by trouble: reports of sex, alcohol and jazz made their way back to an American press hungry for scandal, and the Floating University became a byword for what could go wrong with educational travel. This lecture takes another look at the Floating University and suggests that the legacy of Francis Chance points to a different story—one that universities in 2019 would do well to heed.

 

Tamson Pietsch received her DPhil from University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and currently serves as Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Sciences and Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at University of Technology Sydney. Her research focuses on the history of ideas and the global politics of knowledge and empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, and she is the author of Empire of Scholars: Universities, Networks, and the British Academic World, 1850-1939 (Manchester University Press, 2013), and co-editor of The Transnational Politics of Higher Education (Routledge, 2016). She has previously held lectureships at Corpus Christi College and Brunel University (London), as well as an ARC DECRA Fellowship at University of Sydney, and she is currently at work on a book about the 1926 world-cruise of the “Floating University” and leading an ARC project on expertise in interwar Australia.