Our Faculty

Our Faculty

Drawn from leading Great Books programs in North America, the Great Discourses faculty consists of experienced professionals expert in the high-touch art of assisting discovery in lifelong liberal education. All are devoted to the close reading and careful analysis of the text(s) being studied; to the cultivation of students’ critical thinking, critical empathy and collaboration skills; and to the facilitation of individual and collective “Aha!” moments of profound discovery not easily attained through solitary reading, passive consumption of lectures and programs, or amateur book groups. Yet each is also a unique educator with a very personal teaching style.

Adam Rose

Educated principally at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, Adam Rose is a teacher and scholar with over 20 years’ experience leading exceptionally effective, award-winning Great Books discussion courses in Western Classics for adult and undergraduate students of diverse ages and backgrounds. Mr. Rose’s teaching emphasizes the development of students’ cognitive skills (close reading, analytical thinking, careful listening, precise speaking and powerful writing) and critical empathy (viewpoint appreciation) as part of facilitating a multifaceted appreciation of the text(s) studied. Mr. Rose is the President and Education Director of Great Discourses.

 


Zoë Eisenman

Zoë Eisenman is a teacher and scholar with over 20 years’ experience leading award-winning Great Books discussion courses in Western Classics for a wide range of adult, undergraduate, and high school students — often pairing ancient and modern works “in dialogue” with one another. Whatever the text(s), Ms. Eisenman’s teaching focuses on close reading as the basis of an informed discussion designed to help students discover their own understanding of the work(s). Ms. Eisenman received her undergraduate education at Vassar College and her graduate education at the University of Chicago and is chair of the University of Chicago Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults.

 


David Shiner

David Shiner is a senior professor at Shimer College (“the Great Books College of Chicagoland”) where he has taught for the past 40 years and also served several terms as Dean of the College. Throughout his career, Mr. Shiner has helped intellectually curious individuals master classic works from all areas of liberal studies — including philosophy, literature, music, sociology and biology — and he regularly receives outstanding course evaluations that emphasize both his understanding of the texts and his ability to bring out the best in students. Mr. Shiner brings to his classes a love of ideas and a penchant for helping adults from all walks of life develop their ability to subject every text to careful critical scrutiny.

 


Cari Barnes

As a passionate lifelong learner with degrees in philosophy, computer science, law and business administration underpinning careers as an engineer and a patent attorney — as well as extensive experience governing an award-winning public library — Cari Barnes brings a wide array of knowledge and talents to her teaching. Ms. Barnes’ courses often push the traditional boundaries of the “liberal arts” by integrating classic texts of science, technology and law with works of philosophy and fiction. Ms. Barnes leads Great Books discussions in the Chicago area and is President of the Midwest Great Books Council as well as Marketing Director of Great Discourses.

 


Pierre-Julien Harter

A native of France who received his undergraduate education in classical humanities at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and his Ph.D. in philosophy of religions at the University of Chicago, Pierre-Julien (“PJ”) Harter is a teacher and scholar whose research focuses on Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and whose teaching spans Western and South-Asian philosophy and literature. In addition to introducing “Westerners” to a wide range of “non-Western” classics, Mr. Harter is particularly interested in helping students of all backgrounds explore the intersections and congruences between the classics of the “East” and the classics of the “West.”

 


Sara MacDonald

Sara MacDonald is an award-winning professor at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada where she founded a Great Books program in 2002 that she directed until 2015 and in which she continues to teach. Known for a teaching style that promotes lively, penetrating discussions through a blend of intellectual rigor, Socratic humility and a quirky sense of humor, Ms. MacDonald’s courses generally focus on the ways in which great works of philosophy and literature can help illuminate perennial themes and questions of human life. In addition to her teaching, Ms. MacDonald researches and writes about political philosophy, with an emphasis on ethics, freedom and human rights. Ms. MacDonald received her graduate education in political science at Fordham University and her undergraduate education at St. Thomas University.

 


Mark Cwik

A lifelong devotee of “Great Books”, Mark Cwik has over 25 years’ experience participating in Great Books discussion courses and over 15 years’ experience leading them for adults in a range of traditional and non-traditional settings. Mr. Cwik’s teaching pays close attention to both the text under consideration and the students’ responses to that text in order to enhance the interaction between the two. Mr. Cwik studied at St. John’s College, worked at the Great Books Foundation, and is currently President of Great Books Great Discussions. He lives in London, England  where he facilitates discussions for The London Literary Salon.


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What Students are Saying

Mark Cwik helps everyone in the discussion group be smarter! He knows how to get an engaging and intelligent discussion going: he keeps the group anchored to the text and topic; he asks provocative and challenging questions; he encourages everyone to to share; and, he guides the group to surprising insights. He keeps the atmosphere casual and entertaining, while also triggering moments of authentic enlightenment. And that makes us smarter.


Zoë Eisenman was a great guide who deepened our readings with her knowledge of the Greek and early Roman cultures, providing context and understanding. […] Zoë did a great job of leading our discussion and helping us get the most out of each text. Very enjoyable.


David Shiner’s classes are in high demand for a reason. He is an excellent facilitator and a pleasure to have class with.


Sara MacDonald’s class was very intellectually stimulating, very interesting and eye opening. There were a lot of “wow” moments.


Adam Rose consistently promotes stimulating and even controversial discussion in the classroom, no matter what the subject matter. He pushes you to think carefully and widely about the material and never makes you feel that your contributions are ridiculous. He has a great sense of humor and fun that make learning and discussing memorable. I have learned a tremendous amount under his guidance but mostly learned how to think more clearly and creatively. 


I've had inspiring teachers, but often they were not great discussion leaders.  We were always trying to figure out the answer that they wanted or at least that they would find intelligent.  Cari Barnes created a discussion where it was not so much a matter of being “right” as of being focused and energized. In other words, I got what I was looking for: a pleasurable evening of great conversation about a book worth reading — something I cannot do alone.


Zoë Eisenman always hits a home run with her knowledge of the material and her ability to bring it to a level of understanding in our contemporary world.


David Shiner’s method of facilitating class is very effective. His way of eliciting thoughts about concepts allows for a greater understanding of the text and the implications of the text.


Sara MacDonald is an amazing teacher who encourages students to share and keeps everyone engaged. She is approchable and shows genuine concern for students’ comprehension. Her classes are very informative and she is very personable.


In Adam Rose’s class, for each of the texts, I experienced many epiphany moments where the discussion shed light on important themes I had missed in my own reading. Besides learning the texts, I felt Adam helped me become a better reader.


I have been involved with Great Books for a long time now and think Mark Cwik is the best of the best. We are very fortunate he is our discussion leader. I always am anxious for our next meeting.


Cari Barnes worked with a tough crowd to create one of the most lively and rewarding Great Books conversations ever. I think she left us all wishing for more after a full two hours.


Adam Rose’s approach to whatever subject he teaches is methodical, thought provoking, comprehensive and a good balance between lecturing and Socratic dialogue. He is also clever and funny and engaging and unique. I will take as many courses from him as possible. He manages the class effectively, which is not something that all instructors are able to do.


Zoë Eisenman brings out the best in our class and leads great discussions. She’s extremely well-versed in the material [… ,] makes everyone feel comfortable and does a great job pulling together our discussions. I learn so much in her classes. They are fantastic!


David Shiner is the epitome of the concerned and interested teacher.


I love the enthusiasm and passion that Sara MacDonald brings to every class.


Adam Rose teaches with a twinkle in his eye and that makes all the difference.


Instructor was a true Socrates.