“The mission of the School of Arts at Christian Brothers University is to advance the Lasallian synthesis of knowledge and service by teaching students to think, to communicate, to evaluate and to appreciate.”
If you saw our previous newsletter, you’ll recall that in this space I introduced the new mission statement for the School of Arts. The development of the new statement was motivated by a practical intent: to make it easier to measure the effectiveness of our academic programs, a requirement for sustaining academic quality (not to mention our accreditation). As crucial as it is to sustain excellence, it should almost go without saying that as faculty we are more excited about the spirit of the statement, which invites us to explore creatively how each program is invested in teaching students to think, communicate, evaluate, and appreciate.
Outside academia, these goals are often appreciated for their alignment with so-called soft skills. Increasingly, we hear that employers want to hire people who are are creative, knowledgeable, ethical, and skillful in communicating with others. As educators in fields where these skills are cultivated, we salute the public’s recognition of the practical tools with which we equip our students. At the same time, however, we want students to appreciate the deeper richness of their engagement with the values central to our academic mission.
Take thinking for instance. The Oxford English Dictionary lists at least fifteen distinct definitions for the verb to think. We hear all the time that students need to be trained in critical thinking, but this is only one important mental activity relevant to the education we provide across an incredibly wide range of disciplines within the School of Arts. As a result, it should come as little surprise that a CBU student is likely to encounter all fifteen modes of thinking in her college career, and not only in psychology or philosophy, but in literature, art, history, theatre, and education. And in the School of Arts, her courses may even investigate the OED’s claim that thinking is “essentially predicated of humans, but also (in any sense) in extended or figurative use, as of gods, animals, plants, or natural forces personified.” We’re well beyond soft-skills here, but who knew that thinking (about thinking) would sound so interesting, and aren’t we better off knowing of all the ways there are to think?
Many of these are also highlighted in this newsletter. Among our upcoming events is a lecture by Boston College professor Dr. Shawn Copeland (part of our Distinguished Catholic Lector Series) that will recall for us King’s vision of the “beloved community.” Nic Picou reflects on his experiences in CBU’s theatre program, and we will also have a chance to see him perform in Steven Dietz’s “Private Eyes.” Dr. Karl Leib shares his perspective on a recent discussion of the U.S. Constitution. We learn about the generous grant from the H.W. Durham Foundation that will support the imaginative field work of art therapy students. And Dr. James Wallace helps us picture a symposium of New Testament scholars in Belgrade, Serbia.
It is another exciting year in the School of Arts, and we hope to see you at some of our events. In the meantime, we always want to hear your stories, especially those that reveal how CBU has influenced your own thinking.