Montgomery fellows at College

by Rachel Favors | 1/15/16 5:31am

Klaus Milich, senior lecturer of American literary and cultural studies, began his term as the director of the Montgomery Fellows Program on Jan.1. He was announced as the new director last November.

The search for a new director of the program commenced after former director Chris Wohlforth announced she would be stepping down from her position in June 2015, vice provost for academic initiatives Denise Anthony said.

Anthony said Milich’s international experience and number of years at Dartmouth make him a great choice for the Fellows director position.

Milich, who has been at the College for 14 years, has a broad range of international education and professional experience including degrees in economics and American literary and cultural studies. He has worked in management consulting, has experience as a free-lance essayist and was a journalist for German Public Radio and a visiting professor at Humboldt University in Berlin and Keele University in Great Britain.

His experience in economics, public radio and academia are the three pillars of his professional expertise that qualify him to be the director, Milich said.

Montgomery Fellows Program director search committee member and associate professor of film and media studies Mark Williams cited Milich’s reputation as a public intellectual with experience interviewing people from a wide variety of professions as reasons he was seen as an ideal candidate for the director position.

The Montgomery Endowment, established in 1977 through gifts from Kenneth Montgomery ’25 and Harle Montgomery, brings distinguished figures from both the academic and non-academic sphere to the College for extended periods of time in order for them to interact with the Dartmouth community and impact the educational experience of students. Designated “Montgomery Fellows,” these selected individuals live in Montgomery House on Occom Pond during their residency.

Faculty and staff nominate prominent individuals to become Montgomery Fellows and then the Montgomery Endowment Steering Committee meets to review these nominations and narrow down the candidate pool.

As director of the program, Milich selects the Montgomery Fellow from the steering committee’s short list, extends the invitation to the chosen person, negotiates with the person to get them to accept the invitation and strategizes ways to bring the fellow and the community together, he said.

Moving forward, Milich has many new ideas of ways in which to improve the Montgomery Fellows program and expand its international profile, Anthony said.

Although his new position is very exciting, he noted that it is also challenging at a high-profile institution like the College to increase the program’s visibility and distinction. The program inherently must compete with several other great programs that invite distinguished scholars and people from all over the world, Milich said.

Milich is continuing to work on that challenge and “ventilate” some of his new ideas with other faculty members, students, staff and the Montgomery Fellow Program steering committee, he said. However, his main vision for the program is to increase the continuity of the relationship between fellows and the College after the end of the fellowship.

Having a topical and engaging theme for the fellowship, such as artists, actresses or scholars that contribute to the yearly theme, is another idea Milich has to improve the program, he said.

If Milich could invite anyone in history to be a Montgomery Fellow, it would be one of the great philosophers of the Enlightenment, he said.

Hendrik Hertzberg is the current Montgomery Fellow for the winter term. Hertzberg is a senior editor and staff writer at The New Yorker. In 2009, Forbes Magazine named him as one of the “25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media.” His past positions include chief speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, editor of The New Republic and fellow at two institutes at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“This is not a research fellowship,” Hertzberg said. “It is a giving fellowship. It is more about the College taking advantage of the fellow than fellow taking advantage of College.”

Most fellows’ responsibilities and activities involve presenting lectures, meeting with students and faculty, formally teaching or combinations of such engagements.

During his fellowship, Hertzberg plans to visits classes, attend informal and formal dinners and luncheons with faculty members and groups of students, work on his research and do a few public events, he said.

He noted that being in New Hampshire this year is exciteing, specifically because of the New Hampshire primary.

Feyaad Allie ’16, who attended an informal lunch with Hertzberg, said that the program is extremely impactful on the undergraduate educational experience because it is a great way for students to have a sustained interaction with distinguished individuals instead of in a short lecture or meeting where there are limited opportunities for following up with them.

Milich emphasized the importance of the relationship between the fellow and the Dartmouth community.

“The most important aspect of the Montgomery Fellows Program is that it is a residence program,” Milich said. “The program is meant to guarantee interaction with students and with faculty.”

Hertzberg praised the Montgomery Fellowship, calling it a “first-class fellowship.” He said he especially enjoys going to the theater in the area and the material comfort offered to fellows by way of the Montgomery House, which allows him to entertain his wife and family when they come to visit him on weekends.

Although he did not know what to expect when he came to Dartmouth, Hertzberg discovered that there is a “real magic” about this place, he said, comparing Hanover to a fantasyland.

“In New York City or Boston where I usually spend my time, there is an electrical feel around you all the time,” Hertzberg said. “But, when you get up here, that feeling quiets down and you are able to think.

As Hertzberg was at the College for five weeks in the fall term, he said, his fellowship will end in the middle of this winter term.

The Montgomery Fellow for spring term will be Thomas Allen Harris, who Williams described as a gifted filmmaker and artist.