on the occasion of his receiving the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship at the 2011 Commencement of Franklin & Marshall College
Tony Chemero, associate professor of psychology and scientific and philosophical studies of mind, received his B.A. (with honors) from Tufts University and his Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science from Indiana University. He joined Franklin & Marshall College in 1999 as visiting assistant professor, was hired as assistant professor in 2001, and was promoted to associate professor in 2006.
Professor Chemero is a remarkable scholar who has authored 54 articles, 52 invited presentations and 42 refereed presentations. In addition, his recent book, Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, has been widely praised, leading to speaking engagements around the world. Thomas A. Stoffregen called Chemero’s book “smart, accessible, and engaging . . . rambunctious, opinionated, and heterodox.” That serves as an apt description of not only his book, but also of Professor Chemero himself.
Professor Chemero’s book focuses on “radical embodied cognitive science”—the thesis that cognitive science, and cognition itself, should be described in terms of “agent-environment dynamics,” not computation or representation. Thinking is fundamentally about doing, and Professor Chemero has articulated a new framework for doing cognitive science that will allow us to move beyond the metaphor of brain as computer. Instead, he encourages us to embrace the idea that the mind is a product of our active engagement and interaction with our environment. Professor Chemero concludes, “our experiences are not things that happen in our heads, they happen in animal [or person]-environment systems.” In this sense, the book also is about the educational context that Professor Chemero creates; it helps us to appreciate how, and how well, he “affords” student learning, via the environmental opportunities he provides for student action.
Professor Chemero exemplifies our liberal arts aspirations, by challenging his students (and his colleagues) to confront their preconceptions. Moreover, his challenges provide students the opportunity to serve as colleagues. In the preface to his book, Professor Chemero thanked six members of the F&M Psychology Department for their contributions and also recognized six F&M students.
One of his students wrote, “Not only does Tony appeal to his own research in furthering his students’ education, he also empowers students to engage in their own research. With both realistic criticism and humor, he guides students through the often times stressful process of empirical work. Tony encourages his students to think beyond the grade, and to engage in serious research that adds to the field. I can attest to the personal and intellectual growth that stems from this type of research and advisement.” One of the great promises (“affordances”) of an F&M education is the opportunity for students to achieve intellectual depth and sophistication. And Professor Chemero has delivered on that promise. He has supervised more than 30 independent research projects, and some 34 F&M students have appeared as co-authors on his publications and presentations.
Professor Chemero’s contributions to the College also extend to governance, most notably as a member of the Professional Standards Committee and chair of the Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind program.
The Bradley R. Dewey Scholarship Award celebrates the faculty member who best exemplifies “the ideal of the scholar whose research efforts reflect and inspire excellence and enlighten teaching.” In this year spent celebrating excellent teaching and learning, Franklin & Marshall College is proud to bestow this award on Tony Chemero.
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
President of the College
Given this Fourteenth Day of May
Two Thousand Eleven