Hamline professors such as Mark Berkson are known not only for their academic excellence (95% of Hamline’s College of Liberal Arts faculty hold PhDs or the highest degree in their fields), but also for their passion. And now, Berkson’s engaging and energetic lectures will be available to students all over the world.
In May 2011, Berkson was awarded a contract to create a 24-lecture DVD series and accompanying book entitled Cultural Literacy for Religion. The series’ publisher, The Great Courses, is the nation’s leading publisher of audio and video courses, with tens of thousands of customers and sales throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Designed to meet the powerful demand for lifelong learning, the series seeks out the world's best professors and experts in diverse fields such as philosophy, history, literature, science, and the arts.
“I saw this as an opportunity to reach out to so many different people,” Berkson said. “Everyone from mid-career or retired people who want to continue their education, to families who home-school children, to those who are just curious about various religious traditions.”
The selection process for lecturers is rigorous, and begins with the top 1% of professors in America. Berkson went through a three month audition process, during which he submitted an extensive outline of what his proposed course, scripted two sample lectures, and then, after being selected as a finalist, recorded one of the lectures. In the end, only one in 5,000 professors meet the standards set by The Great Courses, and each professor is voted upon by thousands of customers for evaluation and screening.
Because each lesson is only 30 minutes long, Berkson found it both challenging and rewarding to succinctly cover the basics of each tradition as well as provide contemporary contextualization. Without enough time for an exhaustive discussion, Berkson sought instead to open up a portal of interest and wonder as a stepping-stone for further exploration.
“This entire process made me very grateful for all of the students I’ve had throughout the years,” Berkson said. “While recording, I imagined I was in a classroom at Hamline which provided me with the excitement on-screen that my students inspire within me.”
Find out more about Professor Berkson’s series with The Great Courses