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The secular liberal arts

Barry McNamara
11/16/2010
Monmouth College will host a workshop titled “Reconceiving the Secular Liberal Arts” on Nov. 19-20. The workshop was made possible through a competitive grant that the college received from the Teagle Foundation.

“I think this is a significant event for the college and shows that we are connected to a larger, important national conversation,” associate professor of philosophy and religious studies Hannah Schell said of the workshop.

The workshop, which will involve 12 faculty members, eight students and six student life administrators, will be facilitated by Lucy Forster-Smith, chaplain of Macalaster College, and Randy Cornelius, a psychology professor at Vassar College. The workshop leaders will meet with the students on Nov. 19 and the event will continue Nov. 20 with a six-hour session in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall.

“The participants have agreed to complete a set of readings that are part of the workshop,” said Schell. “The essays are about the importance of engaging students on life’s ‘big questions’ as part of their liberal arts experience.”

Schell explained that Monmouth plans to use the workshop to explore three main topics: an evaluation of its junior-level “Reflections” courses, the redefinition of its chaplain position and the campus community’s ongoing conversations about faith, politics, tolerance and pluralism.

Schell also noted that MC’s mission statement includes the line: “We honor our Presbyterian heritage and value religious diversity as we explore the spiritual dimension of human existence and the relationship between faith and knowledge.”

“The faculty reaffirmed that mission at the time of the (2006) curricular revision, but also began an ongoing discussion about just what this assertion means,” said Schell. “This workshop will help us carry that discussion forward.”