The value of liberal education could not be more apparent to me. In this first year as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, I have immersed myself in the goings-on of the College, and more particularly, in the educational activities and events supported by H&S—the liberal arts college of the College. From the vantage point of a newcomer, it's clear that we are a very special community of teachers and learners who care about the world around us as much as we care about one another.
H&S offers educational pathways that are both myriad and stellar. While the kind of liberal education that we offer can be difficult to define, our students put their experiences into words quite eloquently. Late in the spring semester, we began filming H&S seniors as they reflected upon their IC educations. Our “Meet H&S” project will soon debut on our website, and I encourage you to hear the H&S message from students themselves. Their descriptions of their educations are testament to the power of knowledge.
From one of the videos in “Meet H&S,” I was struck by Alex Krasser's description of a specific major, in this case acting, as a “life” major. We offer numerous life majors in H&S, and what this means in students' own words is education for life—education, says Kendra Sundal, that allowed her to define herself and become an independent person, “to understand who I was on my own terms.” In Taylor Desir's words, this education becomes the prism through which both the past and future are seen more clearly: “The values and things I've picked up over the course of the four years have made me appreciate where I came from a lot more and see the worth of where I'm going,” he says.
The students we interviewed for our “Meet H&S” project were also quick to praise faculty for their role in students' lives. “I've had professors who inspire,” says one student; these are “the people who have changed my life incredibly,” says another. “They made me who I am today,” says a third. We know we have an engaged and student-centered faculty in H&S, but somehow, when a student herself characterizes the greatest experience of being a student as the “relationship you develop with your professors”—that, to me, brings home what we do in new and significant ways.
Whether it's an “academic or a life lesson,” to once again use students' words, there is a palpable enthusiasm for learning that H&S students possess and H&S faculty nurture. I have it on good authority that undergraduate research, an integral part of numerous majors in H&S, is “really cool.” I would welcome additional opportunities to tell you just how exciting it is to hear this. Please feel free to be in touch. My e-mail address is email@example.com. To find our video clips, visit the H&S website.
Leslie W. Lewis