Courses at Deep Springs are intensive, student-driven, and small. Classes usually have between four and twelve students. In most courses, the majority of class time is spent in seminar-style discussions. (Other forms of class structure, including those based in the lab, studio or field, also regularly appear within the curriculum.) There are no majors or concentrations, and students are encouraged to explore a variety of topics in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
The distinctive quality of the Deep Springs academic program is that it treats students not as consumers but as creators of their education and as stewards of a joint intellectual project. The Curriculum Committee (staffed and chaired by students) selects the college’s professors, and the Student Body determines each semester’s curriculum by choosing course from a variety of proposals submitted by each professor. Classes rely heavily on student participation; thorough preparation and robust engagement is seen as a student’s responsibility to the entire class. Students not only drive most class conversations but are also responsible for thinking critically on how each course can improve, attempting to improve their own participation, giving feedback to other students and the professor, and often helping decide questions of class structure.
During the regular academic year, students take two or three full courses at a time. There are typically nine courses offered. The Curriculum Committee maintains a balance of course offerings within the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Courses range from The Special Theory of Relativity to Art and Politics in Twentieth-Century China. While the curriculum includes introductory courses from the major disciplines, it is common for classroom discourse at Deep Springs to cover material reserved for upper-division or graduate seminars elsewhere. In addition, students commonly pursue independent or directed studies, with permission from the Curriculum Committee. There are only three required courses at Deep Springs, each outlined below.
The facilities and resources at students’ disposal include a fully equipped science lab, a library with over 30,000 volumes, a museum and archive with rich historical material from Deep Springs and the local area, an art studio, a music studio and collection of musical instruments including a Steinway grand piano, a darkroom, and more.
The Summer Seminar is the introduction to Deep Springs academics for each incoming class. Often taught by an interdisciplinary team of professors, the course focuses on issues of ethics and governance. Students read and discuss diverse works of literature, philosophy, and social sciences.
Although writing-intensive courses vary in their specifics from year to year, students learn how to write well and how to offer constructive criticism to others. Particular attention is paid to crafting cogent arguments and giving due consideration of the audience of a written piece.
All students take Public Speaking throughout their time at Deep Springs. The campus community meets each week to listen to speakers practice their rhetorical skills. Afterward, the speakers meet to receive feedback on their performance from peers and professors. Each student gives two graded speeches per semester.
Deep Springs College operates year-round. See the Academic Calendar for an example of a typical academic year. In addition to the required courses, the balance of the two to three full courses taken by a student in any given term are elected by the student and approved by the Curriculum Committee. Short descriptions of classes offered during the most recent six academic years can be found in the Deep Springs College Course Catalog (2017-2023).
At Deep Springs, the student to faculty ratio is usually about 5:1. In addition to the President and the Dean, the college employs three long-term faculty: The Robert Aird Chair of Humanities, The Julian Steward Chair of Social Sciences, and The Herbert Reich Chair of Natural Science.
Each academic term, one to three short-term professors visit to increase the breadth of our curriculum. Short-term professors often come during sabbatical from their regular university positions, and many return to teach at Deep Springs more than once.
Below, you will find information about the long-term faculty, and about visiting faculty and scholars for the current and prior academic years.
Antón Barba-Kay, Philosophy
Robert Aird Chair of Humanities (BA, St. John’s College; BA University of Cambridge; Ph.D. University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought). Antón comes to Deep Springs from the Catholic University of America, where he was an Associate Professor of Philosophy. The bulk of his research has concentrated on the subjects of recognition and aesthetics in nineteenth-century German philosophy. His essays have appeared in the Journal of the History of Philosophy, Hegel-Studien, Hegel Bulletin, and Review of Metaphysics, among others. He also writes about contemporary culture and digital technology for a general audience (The Point, The Hedgehog Review, LitHub, etc.). He’s recently completed A Web of Our Own Making—a book about what the internet is and what difference it makes—which is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
Ryan Derby-Talbot, Mathematics
Vice President: Dean and CFO (BA Pomona College; PhD, Mathematics, University of Texas). Ryan is a mathematician with a love of languages, philosophy, travel and interdisciplinary education. Prior to joining Deep Springs he served as the founding Chief Academic Officer of Fulbright University Vietnam. There, he helped launch the university’s novel interdisciplinary and liberal arts undergraduate program using a process of shared faculty-student co-design. Before that, he spent nearly a decade as a professor and then Chief Academic Officer at Quest University Canada, supporting the development of Quest’s innovative liberal arts model in its startup years. He has also been a faculty member at the American University in Cairo, and taught in Japan on the JET Programme.
Mathematically, Ryan is a topologist who studies spaces that serve as potential candidates for the shape of the universe. Educationally, he is interested in experimental college and university models that produce extraordinary learner engagement. In support of the latter, he has founded Reimagining Higher Ed, an organization promoting innovation in higher education. Having grown up in the Eastern Sierra within an extended family of ranchers, he is delighted to find himself in the setting of Deep Springs.
Anna Feuer, Political Science
Julian Steward Chair of Social Science (BA, Columbia University; MSt, University of Oxford; MA, School of Oriental and African Studies; PhD, Yale University, Political Science). Anna’s interests include political violence, the history of the British empire, environmental history, and the history of technology. Her current research, based on her doctoral dissertation, examines the efforts of twentieth- and twenty-first-century counterinsurgent forces to exert technological control over battlefield terrain. She previously taught at Yale University and George Washington University. She also studied international history and politics in the UK as a 2011 Marshall Scholar. Before beginning her PhD, Anna worked on national security policy and conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. At Deep Springs in 2020, she taught courses on “Civil Wars and Insurgencies,” “Colonialism and Postcolonialism,” and “The Politics of Punishment.” In Spring 2021, she taught courses on World War I and the writings of Smith and Marx.
Brian Hill, Physics & Astronomy
Herbert Reich Chair of Natural Science (B.Sc., Physics, University of Washington; Ph.D., Theoretical Physics, Harvard University). Brian came to Deep Springs in 2020 from the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Saint Mary’s College of California. His Ph.D. and postdoctoral research were in theoretical particle physics, and his research topics included the heavy quark effective field theory and lattice gauge theory. After a long and instructive stint in Silicon Valley, including software development at NeXT and Apple, Brian returned to academia in 2015. At Saint Mary’s, he and his students got the campus observatory involved monitoring exoplanets as part of the TESS follow-up observing program. At Deep Springs, while proposing and teaching courses in physics, astronomy, and computer science, he established and is avidly utilizing an observatory at which students can do observation of transient phenomena, spectroscopy, and astrophotography projects.
Andy Zink, Biology
President (B.A., Philosophy and Biology, Bowdoin College, Ph.D., Ecology and Evolution, Cornell University). Andy comes to Deep Springs after 16 years at San Francisco State University, where he was Professor of Biology and Chair of Hiring, Retention, Tenure, and Promotion. In addition to teaching a range of courses and holding several SF State leadership positions, he has received numerous research grants and awards. He has mentored close to 100 undergraduate and graduate students in his lab, the majority of whom are from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Andy has long been fascinated by the evolution of cooperation and conflict in animal societies. His scientific research focuses on the evolution of social behavior and disease ecology.
Visiting Faculty and Scholars—Current Academic Year
Summer Seminar (Term 1, July–August 2023)
David McDonald, Humanities
David teaches at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, and has served as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs there. He is co-teaching summer seminar with long-term faculty member Antón Barba-Kay.
Rory O’Hollaren, Writing Instructor
Rory O’Hollaren, DS’18, studies liberal arts at the University of Chicago. She has previously worked at Deep Springs as a cowboy and as the writing instructor for Summer Seminar and is excited for her second time as the Summer Seminar writing instructor.
Fall Semester (Terms 2 & 3, September–December 2023)
Kathleen Powers, Philosophy of Science
I study the organism in philosophy of science, and my work is on the cybernetics movement, a transatlantic intellectual movement after WWII associated with early concepts of digital computing and artificial intelligence. My dissertation addresses how neurologists applied cybernetic ideas – notions of feedback and command-control – to the biochemistry of the brain, with implications for our understanding of perception as a biological function. Benefitting from the interdisciplinary nature of my department, the Rhetoric Department at UC Berkeley, I undertook coursework in critical theory alongside coursework in the philosophy and history of science. I’m now a medical student intending to apply to residency programs in neurology/psychiatry, with a clinical interest in prion diseases and schizophrenia. I’ll be teaching coursework in philosophy of science, and overall, I’m interested in the biological structure underlying the phenomenon of experience.
Bree Wooten, Philosophy
BA, St. John’s College, Santa Fe; MA individualized studies in philosophy, New York University; Ph.D studies in philosophy and psychoanalysis, European Graduate School, Saas Fee, Switzerland. Bree comes to Deep Springs from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she was a visiting faculty member. Prior to teaching, she spent a year living abroad as an independent researcher in Slovenia, working with faculty at the ZRC SAZU Institute and University of Ljubljana. Her current writing projects seek to bring an Aristotelean foundation to Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis with special attention to the psyche of the musician and Beethoven in particular. She is a devotee of the liberal arts education, with wider research interests in the philosophical writings of Nietzsche and Kant, Mozart’s operas, Antoine Lavoisier’s chemistry, and James Joyce.
Visiting Faculty and Scholars—Prior Academic Year
Summer Seminar (Term 1, July–August 2022)
Rory O’Hollaren, Writing Instructor
Rory O’Hollaren, DS’18, studies liberal arts at the University of Chicago. She has previously worked at Deep Springs as a cowboy and is excited to return as the writing instructor for Summer Seminar.
Sharon Schuman, English
Sharon Schuman was an undergraduate at Stanford and earned her Ph.D. in English at U. Chicago. Forty years ago her first teaching position was at Deep Springs, where she and her husband David were the English faculty and Deans for 7 years. Their children, Rebecca and Ben, were born here. After Deep Springs, she taught at Willamette University, U. Oregon, the Michigan TASP, and Outer Coast College. In 2014 she published Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World, and in 2021 a volume of David’s writing, A Voice for Justice. She performs on violin with Eugene Opera, Oregon Mozart Players, and Chamber Music Amici.
Fall Semester (Terms 2 & 3, September–December 2022)
J. Gary Elliot, Liberal Arts
J. Gary Elliott earned his BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD and his MA and Ph.D. from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in English and Folklore. He taught for over twenty years at Kentucky State University in both the English Department and in the Whitney Young School of Honors, which pursued a great books program modeled after St. John’s. His research interests have focused on folk and popular music, and his teaching interests have centered particularly on Greek Philosophy and the nuances of seminar discussion. He is devoted to liberal education and is a thoroughly amateur guitar and banjo player.
Joan O’Bryan, Political Science
Joan O’Bryan is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Stanford University, where she works on contemporary and historical feminist thought. Her dissertation is tentatively titled, “On Patriarchy: Origin Stories in Contemporary Feminist Thought.” Before Stanford, she received an MPhil in Public Policy from the University of Cambridge and a BA in Political Science and German Studies from Swarthmore College, and in between spent three years teaching elementary and middle school (one year in Germany, and two in Boston). You can find out more about her teaching and research at www.joanobryan.com.
Elizabeth Roripaugh, Geochemistry
Elizabeth Roripaugh earned her Ph.D. from Caltech in geochemistry, a M.S. from Stanford in geology, and a double B.S. degree from Caltech in chemistry and geochemistry. After a successful career in the Canadian oil industry, she obtained her teaching credential in California from Humboldt State University in order to teach science and math in rural high schools and middle schools. She is passionate about environmental science education and is currently exploring the idea of writing an interactive science textbook series for high school students.
Spring Semester (Terms 4 & 5, January–April 2023)
David Egan, Philosophy
David Egan has degrees in philosophy from Oxford (DPhil, 2012), the University of Toronto (MA, 2006), and Harvard (BA, 2000). He has taught philosophy and the humanities at a number of institutions, including Oxford, McMaster University, the University of Chicago, Hunter College at the City University of New York, and Outer Coast. He is the author of a number of articles and essays and a book, The Pursuit of an Authentic Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and the Everyday (Oxford University Press, 2019). He is currently working on a book about humans and animals, and is teaching a course on the subject at Deep Springs. David teaches philosophy online to the general public at eganphilosophy.com.
Annelyse Gelman, Poetry
Annelyse Gelman (MFA, Poetry/Fiction, Michener Center for Writers; BA, Psychology, Reed College) is teaching “The Salon,” an advanced introductory poetry course. Gelman is the author of Vexations (U Chicago Press, 2023), winner of the 2022 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; the poetry collection Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone (Write Bloody, 2014); and the experimental pop EP About Repulsion (Fonograf Editions, 2019). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, BOMB Magazine, the PEN Poetry Series, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She also directs Midst, a digital publishing platform and custom-built software for capturing, saving, and sharing the writing process.
Justin Kim, Art
Justin Kim received his BA from Yale and his MFA from the American University in Washington, D.C. He currently teaches at Smith College and has previously taught at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Yale, and Deep Springs College, where he served as Dean for three years. He has also taught at both the University of Michigan and Cornell branches of the Telluride Summer Association Program. His seminar teaching focuses on the intersection of art and culture, and the reciprocal relationship between art and historical movements. Previous courses include Modernism Through Modern Art, Archetype and Contemporary Art, and Negative Capability in Art and Culture: Romanticism to the Present. A visual artist, his studio practice is based at The Elizabeth Foundation in New York City. He has exhibited in New York and across the Northeast and his work is included in public and private collections.
Will Ramsay, Literature
Will Ramsay recently defended his dissertation “Ben Jonson and the Four Emotions: Desire, Fear, Grief, and Happiness” at the University of Alabama, where he taught courses in composition, English and American literature, and Great Books. His essays have appeared in ANQ, The Ben Jonson Journal, and The Shandean. His position at Deep Springs is his first since finishing his doctorate. He continues in the Spring Semester of 2023 with “Shakespeare’s Plays” after teaching “The Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel” in Fall Semester of 2022.
William Tilleczek, Political Theory
William Tilleczek is a political theorist with broad teaching and research interests in critical theory, history of political thought, social (in)equality, and the ethics of markets. He recently completed his PhD at Harvard University (Department of Government). His dissertation, Powers of Practice: Michel Foucault and the Politics of Asceticism, offers a new reading of Foucault’s oeuvre and a rethinking of politics, ethics, and practices of the self. At Deep Springs, he is teaching a seminar on the political theory of work (“Simone Weil and Hannah Arendt: Work and Politics”), and is working with students to practice their Ancient Greek, German, and French.
Term 6 (May–June 2023)
Alex Jablonski, Filmmaker
Alex is a two-time Emmy-winning documentary director and editor. His new series for HBO, Navajo Police: Class 57, comes out in October 2023. The series is an immersive, character-driven look at the Navajo Nation Police Department and modern reservation life. His most recent feature documentary, Wildland, received grants from Sundance, ITVS, and Telluride Mountainfilm, went on to play theatrically in over a dozen cities, and was broadcast nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens. The film was additionally nominated for three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Nature Documentary. Previously Alex produced and edited Low & Clear which won the Audience Award at SXSW and played at True/False, HotDocs and IDFA. Alex received his BA from Kenyon and his MFA from UCLA, he has taught at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for eight years.
Charles Petersen, American Studies
Charles Petersen is a visiting assistant professor in history at Cornell. He received his PhD in American Studies at Harvard. He is senior editor at n+1, a magazine with which he has been affiliated since 2007. His writing has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Review of Books.
Daniel Schillinger, Political Theory
Daniel Schillinger is a lecturer in humanities at Yale University, where he teaches in the Directed Studies program and offers seminars in classical political philosophy. His articles have appeared in venues such as History of Political Thought, Political Research Quarterly, The Review of Metaphysics, and The Washington Post. He has a book under contract with Oxford University Press. This was his third Term 6 appointment at Deep Springs. He and his family love the Deep Springs valley.
Recent Long-Term Faculty
Sue Darlington, Anthropology
President 2020-2023 (BA Wellesley; MA and Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Michigan). Sue arrived in the Valley after 30 years at Hampshire College, where she taught environmental anthropology, anthropology of religion, Buddhist studies, and human rights. She periodically served as Dean of Advising and Dean of Critical Social Inquiry at Hampshire. Her book, The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement (SUNY 2012), was based on twenty-five years of research with socially engaged Buddhist monks and community activists in Northern Thailand. She is the recipient of grants from the Luce Initiative for Asian Studies and the Environment, Fulbright, Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Association of University Women, among others. Her current research examines ways in which Buddhist monks are involved in agriculture and community development.
Sarah Stickney, Poetry, Literature
Dean 2019–2021 (BA, St. John’s College, Marchutz School of Art, Aix- en-Provence, France, M.F.A. in Poetry, University of New Hampshire). Before serving as Dean, Sarah also was a visiting professor from 2018–2019. Sarah is a poet, translator, and teacher. She has taught at the University of New Hampshire, the Paul H. Nitze School of International Relations in Bologna, Italy, and currently teaches at St. Johns College. She received a Fulbright Grant for the translation of Italian poetry, and her co-translation of poems by Elisa Biagini, The Guest in the Wood won the best-translated book award in 2014. Her poems have appeared widely in journals; her manuscript Portico was the 2016 winner of the Emrys Press chapbook competition.
David Neidorf, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Science
President 2008–2020 (BA The New School for Social Research, MA St. John’s College, MA The Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago). Before he served as President, David served as Dean and as Vice-President of Operations from 2005 to 2007. Before coming to Deep Springs, he was Director of the Integrated Studies Program at Middlebury College. He was a faculty member in the Integral Program at Saint Mary’s College and a visiting professor at Shimer College and Prescott College. He has served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, and Director of Educational Programs at Bioethics-in-Action. David began his teaching career in Outward Bound; he worked seasonally for twenty-five years as an Instructor and Course Director at the Southwest, Colorado, and Hurricane Island Outward Bound Schools.