When you owe someone a favor, it feels really good to return it.
IIT has done Shimer many academic favors. There are weekly colloquia to attend, talks by national speakers to hear, and opportunities for collaboration. More importantly, IIT has helped us at Shimer to educate our students. When we established our partnership with IIT, I expected to see our students take science and math courses there, and many have. I also expected IIT students to use Shimer courses for their electives, and have not been disappointed. It's been a reciprocal exchange that has benefited everyone: the way a partnership works best.
In addition to these, a good number of Shimer students have taken language and other humanities courses at IIT. I did not anticipate this, but should have--IIT has many excellent offerings that complement and extend our own curriculum. While I've been happy for this happen, I've felt a little deflated: since IIT can help serve humanities to our liberal arts students, I wanted Shimer to reciprocate by offering science electives beyond the Nat Sci sequence to IITers.
Now, it has happened. This semester, I'm offering a tutorial in Cosmology that an IIT physics student has enrolled in. This is not a survey-level course that focuses on concepts. It's designed for upper-level physics majors and so it begins with the concepts but then moves on, as it should, to focusing on solving the mathematical problems. The text used is particularly appropriate for a Shimer-IIT mix because all the end-of-chapter exercises are word problems and the students need to set up as well as solve the equations to answer the problems.
I'm delighted with this outcome. Not only do I have two excellent students, but I feel like I'm finally giving back to IIT. A favor returned.