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2019 Herbenick Award Winner

University of Dayton junior Ryan Reed, a history major from Columbus, Ohio, was presented with the Raymond M. Herbenick Award on Sunday, March 24, at the 32nd annual Core program graduation banquet.

The Herbenick Award is presented annually and recognizes a graduating Core student who best exemplifies the Core program and its commitment to interdisciplinary integration. Instituted by the Department of Philosophy in 1999, the award honors the memory of 30-year philosophy professor and founding Core faculty member Ray Herbenick.

“I owe it to the Core program because I would not be where I am today — I’d be in some other headspace,” Reed said. “Right off the bat, you feel from all the faculty the love for learning, but you find out that’s actually just how you should do every single class.”

Core is a robust two-and-a-half year interdisciplinary curriculum that stresses connections between academic disciplines. Courses center around a common theme, “Human Values in a Pluralistic Culture,” and fulfill many of the University’s Common Academic Program requirements. Core is also the longest running learning-living community at the University. Students who successfully complete the program “graduate” from Core in spring of junior year.

“Core will make you into one of the best or well-equipped student at the University,” Reed said. “Professors are going to notice that you’re a Core student. I want to take the Core approach and run with it as far as I can go. I’ve found through all my classes that aren’t even in Core that this model of integrated learning works. Professors want to see you working, thinking and looking at how everything is related.”

The interdisciplinary teaching approach is a hallmark of the Core program, and Reed said he was particularly moved by the experience.

“They have the curriculum so down,” Reed said. “The pedagogy is perfect — they know exactly when students will start to adjust and then they can just grow from there.”

Reed developed a strong rapport with many Core professors, four of whom nominated him for the Herbenick Award. He said one of his nominators, Professor of Religious Studies Anthony Smith, cared greatly about his success and ultimately had a profound impact on his Core experience.

“He was the first professor who took an active interest in me,” Reed said. “He loves his students and he loves to see us think. He poses these wacky questions and sooner or later you get what he’s trying to do.”

Smith said Reed is a standout student with notable capabilities who fully embraced the demands of the Core curriculum.

“Ryan has demonstrated a capacious curiosity and analytical rigor as a Core student,” Smith said. “Articulate, confident and intellectually ambitious, Ryan always embraced the challenge of interdisciplinary study. As a writer of engaging prose, a reader of difficult texts and a student who excelled at making connections between different disciplines of knowledge, Ryan models the kind of student and scholarship that makes Core a premier program at the University .”

Reed said his Core experiences affirmed his true academic interests and shaped his decision to switch from a business focus into a humanities discipline.

“I had this little crush on history for a long time and Core kind of brought that out in me,” he said.

As a former Core Fellow, Reed also assisted first-year Core students with class assignments, readings and essay exam preparation. He embraced his role as a Core Fellow to be a peer mentor for Core students and provide an extra confidence boost for them to succeed in the first year.

Reed said his greatest takeaway from the Core program is the manner in which it teaches students to think for themselves both broadly and critically.

“All the sudden there’s this moment in my head that just clicked,” Reed said. “If I really want to succeed and accomplish my goals, this is how I’m going to have to think — I’ve adopted that and made it my own. Everything bleeds into one another and there’s a lot more gray than we like to imagine because we like our neat little boxes. But there’s a lot of gray in the world and when you acknowledge that you become smarter.”

With his Core program coursework now complete, Reed said his goal heading into senior year and looking beyond the University is to further his education at the graduate level. He said his Core professors served as role models and inspired him to possibly earn a doctoral degree.

“If I’m going to shoot for the stars, that’s what I would like to do because I love research,” Reed said. “My ultimate goal in life is never stop learning.”

- Marissa McCray ’00, Core program and humanities visibility coordinator

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