COLA Connections Newsletter: Winter 2013

From the Desk of the Dean

Writing on a very chilly December morning, I am reminded of John Steinbeck's observation in Travels with Charley: "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" Based on today's thermometer (18°), summer seems particularly sweet. Yes, winter is upon us; but with it comes our first January intersession under our new calendar and an excellent time to reflect on the fall and plan for the spring.

This newsletter gives us an opportunity to reflect on the important ideals that have always been part of our College's mission. One of these ideals is the way in which the liberal arts inform interdisciplinary research and practice. The three individuals profiled this month exemplify how a commitment to liberal arts can be wedded to a range of technical and social questions and problems. We profile here a student, an alumna, and a faculty member who embody the core of our academic mission: a commitment to critical thinking; the ability to synthesize divergent information and different forms of information; skills in communicating between different groups; and a desire to ameliorate our society and affirm our humanity. Each of these members of our community also takes these core liberal arts values beyond the boundary of liberal arts. They don't shy away from technical questions, but help contextualize the technical within the human.

In the coming months our college will be exploring questions of interdisciplinary study in a number of ways. We have established a Faculty Taskforce on Interdisciplinary Programming, and this group will be making recommendations on how interdisciplinary efforts can be best supported by administration. Additionally, we are pursuing new interdisciplinary degrees, including Digital Humanities and Environmental Studies. In each of these cases, we are exploring the thresholds and boundaries of the disciplines, and mapping areas of mutual interest and complementarity across colleges at RIT. We hope that the three profiles in this month's newsletter bring this point of transdisciplinary applications of liberal arts home for you. Dr. Hittenger, Nicole Hawley, and Kate Macken exemplify many of these wonderful ideals that we embrace.

As we conclude this semester, I wish you a happy winter season, and a wonderful new year.