By Kara Blizzard –
On April 9th, several members of the Augustana and greater Camrose community braved snowy weather and flocked to Merchants Tea & Coffee House to discuss liberal arts programs. The session was one of a series of Philosopher’s Cafés hosted by the Chester Ronning Centre.
Augustana’s Vice Dean, Dr. Ric Johnson, led the discussion. Having attended a liberal arts institution, Johnson appreciates the opportunities that such an education can provide. He stresses the importance of “what happens in the interstices between disciplines,” which can clearly be seen on a campus like Augustana: faculty members and students from a variety of disciplines come together to share ideas and innovations.
Johnson quoted Bill Spellman, the Director of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), who describes liberal arts institutions as places “where campus size facilitates dialogue, where global awareness begins in small classes and seminars, and where residential proximity informs community and social action.”
According to Johnson, “we are in an economy with a lot of jobs that require specific knowledge.” The recent increase in demand for specialized B.A. programs, then, makes sense. Still, liberal arts programs offer something unique.
One community member stated, “What I value most about my university experience is not the specific subjects that I studied, but that it taught me to think critically, logically, and metaphorically.” Augustana’s dedication to an interdisciplinary education allows students to develop their reasoning and interpersonal skills in a way that a specialized degree might not.
Student Maggie McBride said, “Experiential learning has been an important part of my life at Augustana.” She has completed several Community Service Learning (CSL) projects, and she participates in campus clubs and committees. For many students, extracurricular activities help define their education. These individuals achieve a sense of belonging that they might not have discovered at a larger institution.
Several café participants agreed that Augustana’s liberal arts focus allows Camrose citizens to become an integral part of the campus community; the Ronning Centre’s Philosopher’s Cafés are an example of this positive relationship.