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Introducing the Athenaeum Fellows

In their first years at CMC, Brian Davidson and Ben Fidler worked as servers at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Davidson recalls the Ath as a highlight of his freshman tour, and Fidler, without much wriggle room in his course schedule for literature classes, has since considered dinners with guest writers and poets as another path to creative enlightenment. Davidson is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major and a self-described intellectual in love with popular culture, trivia, and tea. Fidler, a law junkie, is an international relations major who enjoys opera, soccer, and singing in a 5-C a cappella group.

“I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere at the Athenaeum,” Davidson says. “It has always been a great institution and part of CMC. I have to say that when I did the interview for this job, it was the first time I felt nervous because I wanted it so much.”

The Athenaeum’s distinction as a convivial forum for dinner and intellectual discourse among students, faculty, and community members puts the role of Athenaeum Fellow on many students’ wish-lists. Fellows eat at the head table with influential speakers from the fields of business, politics and the arts, and introduce the guests to Athenaeum audiences four times a week. Davidson and Fidler will also assist with writing and editing the Athenaeum’s bi-weekly newsletter, The Fortnightly. Additionally, the Fellows work with Athenaeum director, Bonnie Snortum, in developing themes and strategies for bringing speakers to campus.

“The opportunity to be there every single day and interact so closely with so many fascinating people is just astounding,” Davidson said.

Both students have kept a sharp eye on the Athenaeum’s lineup these past years. Fidler’s favorite guest thus far has been law professor and author Amos Guiora, who lectured last semester on counterterrorism. His dream guest is Muhammad Yunus, whose work in developing microfinance in Bangladesh won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. “I would talk to him about why he think it works, and how it can be adapted to other environments,” says Fidler. Davidson’s favorite Athenaeum guests have included Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pogge, author and military historian Victor Davis Hanson, and commentator and blogger Andrew Sullivan.

Fidler says he looks forward to helping “continue the balance between politics and the humanities” in his Athenaeum work.