Profs and Pints Provides Higher Education Opportunities to a Large Demographic


Richard J. Bell gave a lecture on the Broadway show Hamilton last week. Courtesy of Katarina Ivancik

By Katarina Ivancik

Profs and Pints, founded by Peter Schmidt, is a company with a goal to create a unique learning opportunity that allows professors of all disciplines to share their knowledge in a setting where it can be enjoyed by a wide and varied demographic.

An event took place on April 11, at the Cambria Hotel Washington, D.C. Convention Center. The meeting was a part of an ongoing series of lectures that covers a variety of academic topics. This particular lecture was given by Richard J. Bell, a professor from the University of Maryland, on the topic of the overall historical merit and accuracy of the hit Broadway show Hamilton.  

The company’s most recent event served as a launch for their national expansion. A partnership with Cambria Hotels has allowed the concept to grow beyond the DMV area. New locations include Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, and Philadelphia. What started as lectures over beer at the local Bier Baron Tavern has become an evening of food, drink, and delightfully educational content.

“Profs and Pints was such a perfect fit for us because they feature these great programs and great topics in an environment where people can have something to eat something to drink,” said Terri Ryan, the vice president of brand operations for Cambria Hotels. “This is a brand new collaboration for Cambria Hotels and for Profs and Pints…it gives that sort of access to education.”

According to Ryan the first meeting between Cambria and Profs and Pints was immediately successful and the collaboration has come together seamlessly. “Hamilton’s History Remix”  gave a detailed and entertaining account of what the musical accomplishes culturally, and historically as well as where it falls short of being historically accurate.

The original idea for the company stemmed from Schmidt’s recognition that there are far too many people who are unable to get a college education.

“I became deeply aware of how many people either could not afford college or were dropping out of college because they needed to pay their student loans or studying what they thought would make them money rather than what they are passionate about,” said Schmidt.   

He also realized that many professors’ skills and expertise are being wasted or at the very least, underappreciated.

“I had a career more than thirty years as an education writer,” said Schmidt. “The academic workforce has changed…we were writing about adjuncts who were living on food stamps, in their cars.”

Profs and Pints became Schmidt’s solution to this problem. In this age of rapidly expanding technology, it is still evident that people have a desire for knowledge. Lectures on YouTube and documentaries on Netflix and Hulu are all responses to this universal desire, but Profs and Pints offers something that these digital platforms lack, which is community. This program fosters interactions between like-minded people who are all eager to engage in conversations and broaden their knowledge. The environment is warm and welcoming, and the relaxed atmosphere is an invitation to strike up conversations with strangers to share personal interests and discover new ones as well.

“I really like Hamilton, but I’m also a historian I work on early America the period between the revolution and the Civil War so I have some perspective on what this show does right historically and where it maybe strays from the core narrative that historians agree on,” said Bell.  

Bell began giving this lecture last fall. Its debut was at the Washington, D.C. Smithsonian and, since then, Bell has given the talk numerous other times before bringing it to Profs and Pints’ new location at the D.C. Cambria Hotel.      

The lecture was expertly sprinkled with interesting Broadway based and historical facts, entertaining clips of music, and a healthy dose of American history. Bell began by praising the musical’s overall genius, pointing out specific lines of lyric which make allusions to other songs, shows, and historical background. However, Bell expressed that he felt that the show did not fully address the Loyalist Movement, the women of the revolution, and the issue of slavery.

Professor Bell’s goal was to hold Hamilton to the same critical standards as other great artistic works. People generally agree that Shakespeare’s plays are a work of genius, but that does not stop literary experts from analyzing it and criticizing them to this day. In his view, Hamilton is another work of art worthy of this kind of scrutiny. Bell believes that there is no reason that historians should not hold Hamilton and similar musicals to a high level of historical accuracy and excellence both now and in the future.      

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