Inauguration of Dr. Craft
- Dr. William J. Craft Inaugural Address
- John Ydstie '74: Seminar Introduction
- Dr. John Churchill: Seminar Presentation
- Dr. Susan O'Shaughnessy: Response to Dr. Churchill
- Dr. Earl Lewis '78: Seminar Presentation
- Dr. Linda Johnson: Response to Dr. Lewis
- Speaker Biographies
- Introduction of the Forum on Faith and Life
- Inaugural Chapel Sermon
- Dr. Jacqueline Bussie Biography
- Rev. Renee Splichal Larson Biography
Response to Dr. Earl Lewis
Dr. Linda L. Johnson
Professor of History
First, there is the paradox of place. Our global reach has become vastly extended and intensified – students have increasingly rich opportunities to study, research and serve in distant locales, and graduates find increasing employment opportunities both overseas and with domestic organizations that function in multinational settings. At the same time, however, the residential setting of our college and the quality of the academic community nurtured here, increasingly distinctive features of the liberal arts experience are vital elements shaping the capacities of our graduates to function effectively in the world. Boundaries between campus, the Moorhead-Fargo community, the nation, and the world are dissolving. Technology enables us to invite into our classrooms voices from distant places that contribute to a penetrating understanding of scholarship and engender meaningful conversation. Learning and serving here, with people whose diverse experiences and points of view challenge our assumptions too comfortably held, promotes the opportunity to, as John Churchill says, “see ourselves as others see us.” And as the content of the curriculum and campus programming are intentionally shaped to cultivate a “sympathetic imagination,” the students and faculty of this college experience study away with greater insight and return to campus to affect our life together more profoundly.
Second is the paradox of purpose. Liberal learning was traditionally centered on cultivating one’s own knowledge and virtues, and inquiry was thought to have been practiced with the greatest purity when pursued without regard to any vocational utility, financial reward, or ideological purpose. But the global nature of our present life calls into question the means by which we can now become our truest selves. The growing consciousness of our radical interdependence that has emerged with a global perspective on our lives invites us to re-locate the center of liberal learning in collective aspirations and achievements. Recognition of the severity and complexity of global problems intensifies the urgency with which the members of this college community engage in vocational discernment and practice. A robust understanding of liberal learning embraces the acquisition of skills that prepare our graduates to undertake employment that both enrich their lives and those of others, by promoting peace, justice, and a sustainable environment.
Third is the paradox of integrity – that which promotes wholeness. At the very time in which we have greater access to exponentially increasing sources of information and solutions to the world’s most persistent problems clearly require our sustained, collective wisdom, institutions, including liberal arts colleges like our own, are more likely structured to promote specialization and competition rather than integrative-thinking and collaboration. Perhaps scarce resources will constitute the necessary incentive for us to imaginatively respond to the questions that Earl Lewis has posed regarding the curriculum and pedagogy of liberal learning. The promise of potential benefits for responsible engagement in the world invites us to reflect on the limitations we impose upon ourselves by equating academic excellence with that which is narrowly conceived and parochially defended. Boldly embracing the opportunities afforded us at this transformative moment, we are re-inventing the undergraduate experience to promote integrity. An understanding of connections between the academic disciplines, identification of transferable skills, and practice in addressing real-world problems cannot be left to chance, but must be explicitly structured into a liberal arts education.
In this time and place, liberal learning is neither frivolous nor an extravagance. Owning the liberal arts is the means by which we become our truest selves in a global setting. Thank you.