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Presidential intern hopes to reinforce liberal arts foundation in curriculum

POSTED AT 11:02 PM ON Feb. 13, 2012  (UPDATED AT 01:02 PM ON Feb. 14, 2012)

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High expectations are the norm for IU alumnus Christian Hines.

As a former Wells and Lilly Scholar, Hines spent his undergraduate years at IU studying history and establishing an individualized major in democratic theory and contemporary American citizenship. He graduated last spring.

Hines was recently selected as the University’s third presidential intern. As he works with the president’s office, he will perform research testing the feasibility of a new program to advance the undergraduate experience at IU.

“I think we place more pressure on ourselves when dealing with something that really excites us, something in which we’re wholly invested,” Hines said. “But this is a productive pressure. We always produce better work under these conditions.”

Hines served two years on the Board of Aeons, which acts as a student advisory and  research committee and operates with a low profile under the discretion of the president of the University.

“Usually, we would brief the president before the end of the first term, and then we would follow up with our final research project at the end of the year,” Hines said of his experience as an Aeon. “The board has traditionally operated fairly discretely because, sometimes, we’re dealing with sensitive information so we don’t violate the trust of anyone we’re working with, but that’s all public knowledge of what we do.”

Hines is working as presidential intern to create a program at IU that provides emphasis on a more liberal arts-centered foundation. This includes the study of Western master works of art, philosophy and literature and how they relate to one another, as well as the social, historical and political context of the works’ creation, he said.

Hines said he is studying the structure of similar programs that are currently being implemented at other leading research institutions, including Stanford, Yale and  Columbia universities.

“It helps, having some of that background knowledge. What I’m doing is basically an extensive research project,” Hines said. “I’m doing a study and condensing it into three or four months.”

The project has also served as an opportunity for Hines to work with some individuals whom he had worked with as an Aeon.

Kelly Kish, Deputy Chief of Staff to the office of the president, said she is acting as a sort of liaison to the president, much like her role as the official liaison to the president when she worked with Hines for the Board of Aeons.

“I have always found him to be very thorough and thoughtful in his approach,” Kish said. “I think he really tries to understand the issues from a 360-degree perspective before sending out any recommendations or ideas. That is one of his strengths.”

Hines said he knew the IU president had not appointed the presidential intern position for the 2011-12 year when he had this project in mind.

“This was something totally initiated by me,” he said.

Hines said he needs to have a proposal on the president’s desk by the end of his term.

“I think my ability to have an impact really diminishes after people have (left the campus),” Hines said.

Hines said he approached the University with his idea in mind and spoke with Kish.

“She expressed her eagerness to have me come and fulfill some responsibilities in the office,” Hines said. “The president is behind the project. He is a strong proponent of the humanities, and so I think when there is an opportunity for me to explore this, he was eager to have me on board.”

Hines talked about what he thought was to become of the program he is trying to initiate.

“I have high expectations for the project because it could benefit the kind of undergraduate that IU has tried harder and harder, in recent years, to recruit,” Hines said. “But it’s also important to be patient and recognize that this will take time, especially if we want to do it right.”

 

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