Three professors win 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship

The fellowship provides support for recipients to focus on creative and academic projects.

by Frank Blackburn | 4/15/22 5:05am

by Summer Hargrave / The Dartmouth

Three Dartmouth faculty members — music professor César Alvarez, government professor Brendan Nyhan and philosophy professor Amie Thomasson — were awarded 2022 Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. According to a press release from the Foundation, 180 fellows from 51 different fields were selected on April 7 from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants. 

Fellows are able to take a yearlong sabbatical with varying levels of funding, focusing on mid-career projects specific to their field of interest and expertise, according to the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s website. 

Alvarez is one of the four recipients in the Drama and Performance Art category. Alvarez said that receiving the award felt “confounding.” 

“If I’m doing my job really well, I’m really out into a territory that is uncharted and confusing and unpredictable,” they said. “So, to get this kind of confirmation throws you for a loop.”

Alvarez said that they intend to use the award to continue work on their self-written musical, “The Potluck,” which Grove Entertainment is slated to produce in New York in 2024. “The Potluck,” which is inspired by true events, explores the aftermath of five Communist Workers Party activists’ murders by the Ku Klux Klan, Alvarez said. They added that the slain protesters, who were killed in 1979, were close friends of Alvarez’s parents.

“The musical tells the story of me trying to figure out how to use musical theater to process their deaths,” they said. “It kind of becomes this ritual for reclaiming these five spirits and connecting with them.”

Nyhan — one of this year’s two recipients in the Political Science category —  has taught at Dartmouth since 2019. In an email statement, he describes his work as focusing on misinformation in politics and health. 

“Tentatively, I plan to use the fellowship award to support a new project examining the effects of interventions designed to counter misinformation on people's survey responses and online behavior,” he said. 

Thomasson, who is the chair of the philosophy department, is one of three fellows in the Philosophy category. Thomasson, who has taught at Dartmouth since 2017, said that she was “amazed” when she received the news of her acceptance. 

“No one can apply for these things with any expectation of getting it,” she said. “For me, I went into it as a real long shot.”

Thomasson said that her application helped her deal with the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was so worn down after the pandemic,” she said. “So I just put in the application very quickly to have some little glimmer of hope.”

Thomasson said she will use the award to work on her forthcoming book, “Rethinking Metaphysics.” She added that her project will argue for a “conceptual engineering” view of metaphysics, a field concerned with the core tenets of reality. 

“What I’m arguing for in the book is rethinking metaphysics, not as a process to discover what exists and what the world is really like…But rather, as working on questions about what concepts we should use and language, and how we should use them,” she said.

Thomasson said that the fellowship — and the resulting year away from other professional responsibilities — will be “absolutely critical” to finishing her book.

“The Guggenheim will give me [time] because it will give me a year without teaching, without administration, where I can just sit and think and read and write and kind of get [my work] together,” she said.

Alvarez said that receiving the fellowship is an affirmation of their career direction.

“My job is to work really hard to be out into the unknown,” they said. “For someone to say, ‘yes, this is it’ feels very confirming like I'm doing something right, but it’s also very unknown.” 

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