Provost Tom Stephenson has announced that Associate Professor of Political Science Ben Berger will assume the position of executive director of the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility for a five-year term.
Berger has served as the interim executive director of the Center since July 1.
“During that time, he has demonstrated his energetic commitment to the social justice mission of the Lang Center, and an ability to bridge disciplinary boundaries in pursuit of deepening its support of the curriculum,” says Stephenson.
As interim director, Berger continued the center’s expansive programming, selected a new class of Lang Opportunity Scholars, and spread word about the Center’s mission and resources to the College community through a series faculty receptions and discussions.
“I approached this interim year as a renovator rather than a caretaker,” Berger says. “I didn't want simply to tread water, because I felt sure that I could accomplish some changes that would be useful to any long-term executive director the school ultimately chose. I especially wanted to continue the faculty outreach that I began under my outstanding colleague Joy Charlton.”
He credits Jan R. Liss, executive director of Project Pericles, for his successful transition into the role, noting that his experience as a Periclean faculty leader and program co-director helped prepare him for his current position.
Daniel Underhill Professor of Music and Department Chair Thomas Whitman, a member of the selection committee, was impressed with Berger’s leadership skills and passion for the position.
“He is a fountain of ideas and he is off the charts with so much energy and vision and passion for what he wants to do,” Whitman told The Phoenix. “It is a whirlwind to be in the room with him; he is a very impressive man and very impressive leader."
Going forward, Berger wants to expand the Center’s circle of usefulness to even more faculty colleagues and students.
“Eugene Lang ’38 always aspired for his Center to connect the curriculum to the community, and I look forward to sharpening the details and definitions of ‘community,’ ” he says. “I want us to connect our rigorous teaching and research to the campus community and its many, vital student groups; to the local communities of Chester and the greater Philadelphia region, where we aspire to create reciprocal partnerships and to co-create knowledge; to more far-flung communities around the country and the world; and to the community of scholars and activists who share knowledge via publications and conference presentations for the purpose of social amelioration.”
Berger, who will continue teaching in his new role, studies the intersection between normative political theory and empirical political science. His current projects include a book on civic education and a book chapter on democratic theory. His book, Attention Deficit Democracy: The Paradox of Civic Engagement, won the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award for the best social philosophy book published in 2011. He received his A.B. from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.