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Academic Symposium Addresses Future of Liberal Arts

October 16, 2013

Laurie Morrissey
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

The week of the presidential inauguration began October 16 with an academic symposium, the first of its kind in the college's history. The topic, building on the inaugural theme of Faith in the Future, was "The Future of the Liberal Arts."

The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Timothy Austin, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Duquesne University and a member of the board of trustees of Saint Anselm College.

Before his presentation, Keith Chevalier, college archivist and head of special collections at the Geisel Library, discussed the 120-year history of Saint Anselm College. He discussed the curriculum, early student life, and various academic and extracurricular activities available to students since the college opened in 1893.

Dr. Timothy AustinDr. Austin's presentation focused on how the liberal arts remain as critical as ever in spite of some current naysayers.

"The future of the liberal arts as an intellectual field of study is bright," he said. He refuted the arguments of those who see the liberal arts succumbing to the relentless march of technology and colleges like Saint Anselm forced to bow before a growing chorus of demands for "relevance" in education. He argued that the liberal arts reflect an innate human drive to pursue knowledge, understanding and creativity as the foundation for progress.

"I prefer to believe in the ability-indeed, the  determination-of the human race to adopt, if necessary adapt and apply with skill and insight, whatever technology brings us. It may take time, I concede, to overcome the less desirable high-glitz-and-glamour side-effects, the bells and whistles of the technologies that admittedly dazzle and distract us today. But I am confident that we will find ways to do so and that we will instead, put those new resources to work in the service of our innate and irrepressible drive to learn, to explore, to analyze and to understand."

He added that the breadth and flexibility that characterize the typical American baccalaureate education (as opposed to the more specialized model common in Europe) prepares young women and men for a world in which "change will be constant and rapid, cultural sensitivity will be critically important, and mankind will face challenges of extraordinary significance."

The solutions to these challenges will demand teamwork, creativity and insight, he said. In addition, the liberal arts provide the best possible preparation for a fulfilling and rewarding life in this millennium, whatever one's ultimate career path.

In closing, Dr. Austin said that under Dr. DiSalvo's leadership, Saint Anselm College "can and should play a leading role in ensuring that our aspirations for the continued health and prosperity of the liberal arts are fully realized."

"Dr. DiSalvo comes to the presidency of Saint Anselm College at a crucial time. To his new role, he brings, I believe, a clear-sighted vision for this institution as a leading liberal arts college, as is immediately evident in his choice of the topic for today's inaugural symposium. Our role this weekend, as faculty, staff, trustees, parents, alumni and friends of Saint Anselm, is to affirm his belief in the college's future and to commit ourselves to helping him bring it about."

Three faculty members also responded to Dr. Austin's talk offering their views on the future of liberal arts and the influence technology has in the educational process. Those faculty members included Dr. Nicole Eyet, assistant professor of chemistry, Dr. Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor of politics, and Dr. Chani Marchiselli, assistant professor of English.