Scholars without walls


The walls of academia, that is….

Though I was present at the birth of the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum over two decades ago, I’ve never really Poked Around some of the details or independent scholarship, its various permutations and connections… What I did know is that, in the early 1980’s an assemblage of disenfranchised researchers, educators and lifelong learners, working with the Minnesota Humanities Commission, joined forces to address the critical needs of serious scholars working on their own and without the perks of academic life. To some extent their inspiration came from am emerging national recognition of independent scholarship, manifest in one way by publication of the widely read The Independent Scholar’s Handbook by Ron Gross.

After much deliberation (as becomes a gathering of independents) these folks agreed that independent scholars experienced specific needs – for access to library resources, for recognition of writing, speaking and other scholarly pursuits, for foundation and government funding, and, above all, for opportunities to share information and ideas with colleagues.

Many of the barriers, the group concluded, were remedial. Thus they created the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum, now a 501c3 nonprofit. Though time and technology have alleviated some of the problems, e.g. access to library resources; others persist. Time constraints and a dearth of venues that support sharing information and ideas top the list.

Today, the MISF works to anticipate, address and meet the changing needs of scholars working on their own. At the same time the scholars enrich the community by sharing their research and insights with the community at large. Membership is open to learners of every stripe – no degree requirements. The current MISF sports a lively mix of active learners in a host of settings – homemakers, part time students, attorneys, librarians, government, museum, corporate employees. MISF provides a structure that offers common space and opportunity for independent learners — physicists, historians, literary scholars and creative writers, musicians and artists, even lurkers like me. Members share their experiences, their studies and opinions, and their commitment to an environment that actively supports an academic life that is shared and recognized.

The “independent” in MISF is the tie that binds and the spirit that creates the “lively, interdisciplinary, and non-traditional environment” that is the hallmark of the organization. MISF dues start at just $25. All activities are free and open. Check it out, drop in on a study group or public forum. Check out the MISF website, email or send a note MISF at USPS: Box 80235, Mpls 55408.

National Coalition of Independent Scholars

The Independent Scholar’s Handbook by Ronald Clark revised and available in digital format from Simon Fraser University and the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars.