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'Culture, Brain and Development' Program

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The Foundation for Psycho-cultural Research has awarded $1 million to Hampshire College for an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in "Culture, Brain and Development" that is expected to become a model for colleges and universities.

The groundbreaking program will facilitate student and faculty work at the intersection of neuroscience, anthropology, psychology and related fields. The program will be designed to sharpen our understanding of human development by moving away from the traditional debate about nature versus nurture and exploring development as a process that involves both body and mind within a context of biology and culture.

Hampshire College President Gregory S. Prince, Jr. said the grant "will provide important opportunities for Hampshire students and faculty to engage in research that has the potential to reshape the way we think about the science of the brain and the relationship of the individual to culture and society. This works well with Hampshire's tradition of interdisciplinary study and will be a catalyst for innovative collaboration among scholars and scientists."

The Foundation for Psycho-cultural Research (FPR), based in Pacific Palisades, Calif., supports programs and scholarly efforts that provide models of integrative cultural and neuroscientific research. It was founded in 1999 by a gift from Robert Lemelson, a lecturer at UCLA in the departments of anthropology and psychology. Dr. Lemelson is an alumnus of Hampshire College (79F).

"Advances in neuroscience and social science have created a need for integration of these levels of analysis," said Dr. Lemelson. "Hampshire College, with its multidisciplinary focus, is the ideal site for an undergraduate program seeking a more profound understanding of the relationship of the individual, culture and the brain."

Dr. Lemelson is also a director of The Lemelson Foundation, a family foundation that supports innovation and invention in American society and funds the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center (LATDC) at Hampshire College.

The five-year, $999,809 FPR grant is aimed at a transformation of Hampshire's curriculum. It will fund a visiting professor in developmental neuroscience, stipends for student research projects and opportunities for student internships at graduate institutions. A biennial FPR Distinguished Lecture in Culture, Brain and Development will also be part of the program. Through seminars, summer institutes, and a conference and its proceedings, faculty will help share the model of the Hampshire program with other undergraduate institutions.

Professor of Anthropology Barbara Yngvesson will direct the program, working with a steering committee of Hampshire faculty from a range of academic disciplines.

"At a time when genetic determinism and cultural relativism threaten to overwhelm the popular and scientific understanding of human behavior, it is crucial to provide students with resources to evaluate these models. We are thrilled at the possibilities this grant will provide for expanding our curriculum in this direction," said Professor Yngvesson.

In addition to new courses co-taught by faculty from a variety of disciplines, including cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, cognitive neuroscience and psychology, the program will draw on existing strengths in Hampshire's Schools of Social Science, Natural Science and Cognitive Science. Hampshire faculty and students are already engaged in collaborative exploration of such topics as evolution of the brain and language, the nature of gender and the interdisciplinary study of consciousness.

Hampshire's School of Cognitive Science was the first undergraduate cognitive science program established and Hampshire faculty published the first undergraduate cognitive science textbook. The School of Social Science is in the forefront of integrating programs in activism, politics and theory, and examines child development from cross-disciplinary perspectives through its Childhood Studies Program. The School of Natural Science's leadership in involving undergraduate students in original scientific research has been recognized with grants from the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Sherman-Fairchild Foundation.

"The development and dissemination of innovative, interdisciplinary programs has been an important part of the mission of Hampshire College since its founding," said Dean of Faculty Aaron Berman. "This very generous gift from the Foundation for Psycho-cultural Research enables the faculty working in Culture, Brain and Development to provide such leadership in an exciting, new context."

Foundation for Psycho-cultural Research:

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