Interview with B&B Philosophy Faculty Andrea Scarantino, PhD.
Andrea, Thanks so much for sitting down with us today as we attempt to squeeze every last minute with you that we can.
B&B: How long total did you serve?
Andrea: Since 2008, so 9 years. I originally got on the IDC thanks to a run-off election, believe it or not, the first in IDC history. I had gotten the exact same votes as another candidate in 2008, after all hanging chads were counted. I had to fight my way to the committee!
B&B: How was it different than what you thought it would be like to be chair of the IDC?
Andrea: It has been a better experience than I expected. And I am not even kidding. The members of the IDC have always struck me as a group of committed, efficient and no BS people interested in making the Brains & Behavior Program work as well as it can. We have had a variety of leadership teams for the IDC, and they have all discharged their duties admirably.
B&B: Has B&B changed over the years you’ve served?
Andrea: Absolutely! We have gone through 2 Neuroscience Institute directors during my tenure – Walt and Geert – and they both have always been very supportive of the B&B mission. Over the years, we have implemented a variety of important changes to the program, including most significantly the revamping of the B&B seed grant process, the creation of better lines of communication with departments thanks to the Ambassadors program, the distribution of guidelines to make the recruitment and training of B&B Fellows more uniform across departments, the creation of the B&B Summer Scholars Program and of the Brains (and) Behavior Alumni Network (BaBAN), and much more. You have personally been an agent of change with respect to all of these improvements, which is why I never lose an opportunity to sing your praises! The operatic Italian tradition runs deep in my bones, I guess.
B&B: What are your final hopes and wishes for B&B?
Andrea: I hope and trust that we will all continue to work hard towards keeping the B&B mission alive and kicking. We are at a time of transition at the Neuroscience Insitute, and it is vital that the new director continues to consider the B&B program the awesome interdepartmental resource it has been over the past decade or so. The governance of the B&B Program is in some ways peculiar, because the IDC reports to the NI Director, but it considers the NI just one of the departments it administers. This has worked out well so far and I have never felt any threat to the IDC’s independence. No Comey-style dinners with loyalty pledges have ever taken place, so to say. But it is an independence to be earned and defended on the field, not one fully guaranteed by the by-laws. So I encourage future members of the IDC to keep in mind that they are representing not just their own department, but the B&B community writ large. I think there is much room for improvement moving forward in terms of what the B&B Program does, especially in the area of interdisciplinary training. I’d love to see classes co-taught by members of different departments, and more opportunities for socialization among faculties and among students from different departments. But we already have an established record of accomplishment. Two pieces of data strike me as especially relevant. 95% of B&B Fellow Alumni since 2011 are currently employed or continuing their graduate studies full time. Go B&B graduates! And the 56 B&B Seed Grants from 2010-2015 have led, according to responses to a questionnaire, to 75 extramural grants, 100 publications, and 168 presentations. These are good numbers, which suggest to me that we are heading in the right direction.
B&B: What will you do now with all your extra time and energy?
Andrea: Open a restaurant by the beach in Montigo Bay, Jamaica, to pursue my real passion: cooking. Just kidding. I will spend a semester in Berlin as a Humboldt Fellow at the Center for Mind and Brain next year, and I look forward to doing research on emotions and the evolution of language while enjoying the many enticements of Berlin, which has 600 galleries, 175 museums, 3 opera houses, 5 symphony orchestras and plenty of theatres. Be in touch if you come by!
B&B: Haha! I have to say I got excited to hear you might be going into the food business, on a beach nonetheless. However, I must admit, GSU is lucky to have you in the business of Philosophy and, no doubt, representing us elegantly in Berlin. What an exciting journey.
‘Thank you’ does not cover it, Andrea. Good luck in all your next endeavors and stay in touch!