2004 TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award Winner : Barnard College 

January 2004

Reacting to the Past

Barnard College was chosen as the 2004 Hesburgh Award winner for it's innovative education program, Reacting to the Past, which challenges students through intense role-playing games to debate the ideas and politics of great figures from the past, such as Socrates and Gandhi.

Founded in 1995 by Mark C. Carnes, Barnard Professor of History, Reacting to the Past began as a way of breathing new life into Barnard's first-year general education seminar. Carnes had grown dismayed by his students' failure to engage with important historical texts, and reconfigured his seminar as a series of elaborate month-long role-playing games whose rules replicate pivotal historical moments. During the games, students were assigned roles dealing with turning points in history, such as Athens' defeat following the Peloponnesian War and India's attainment of independence in 1945.

The program was such a success on campus that more than a dozen Barnard faculty members adopted it for their own first-year seminars. Evaluations of the program concluded that Reacting students were found to have acquired considerably stronger speaking skills and a heightened ability to empathize with different cultures and peoples. In addition, Reacting students experienced a statistically significant increase in grade-point average in subsequent years.

"I found that the program generates an astonishing intensity that spills into the dorms after class," said Carnes. "It appeals to the students' imagination while challenging them emotionally and intellectually."

The success of Reacting to the Past isn't going unnoticed by Barnard College's peers either. Over the last two years faculty and administrators at colleges nationwide have adopted the program for their students as well. In fact, Reacting to the Past has become so popular that colleges in Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and Texas have formed a consortium with Barnard to share ideas and results.

2004 TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Certificates of Excellence Winners
Two institutions were selected to receive Theodore M. Hesburgh Certificates of Excellence for meritorious faculty development programs. They include:

  • Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY) for Designed for Learning, a program created to help faculty use interactive digital technology to engage students; advance their academic success; and enhance their ability to work, think and lead.
  • University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for its Freshman Cluster Program, which helps new students gain the academic skills and broad perspective needed to succeed in a large research university.

2004 TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Panel of Distinguished Judges
Dr. David Alexander
President Emeritus
Pomona College

Dr. Hans Brisch
Chancellor Emeritus
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Dr. K. Patricia Cross
Professor of Higher Education, Emerita
University of California at Berkeley

Dr. Vera K. Farris
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Dr. Juliet Garcia
The University of Texas at Brownsville

Dr. Margaret A. Miller
University of Virginia

Dr. Terry O'Banion
League Senior Fellow and President Emeritus
League for Innovation in the Community College

Dr. Kenneth A. Shaw
Chancellor and President
Syracuse University

Mr. H. Patrick Swygert
Howard University

2004 Hesburgh Winner Pic

Left to right:
Herbert M. Allison, Jr.,
Chairman, President and CEO, TIAA-CREF;
Dr. John Bihn, Vice President for Academic Affairs, La Guardia Community College;
Dr. Judith Shapiro, President, Barnard College;
Dr. Judith Smith, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, UCLA;
Madeleine d'Ambrosio, Executive Director, TIAA-CREF Institute

© 2014 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), New York, NY 10017