Good Morning. Welcome to this seminar on the liberal arts in a global age. My name is John Ydstie, Concordia is my alma mater and I'm now a correspondent at NPR News in Washington, D.C. I'll be your moderator this morning. It's great to be with you.
This seminar is happening at a moment in time that is a milepost for Concordia: the inauguration of a new president, William J. Craft. Of course, Bill has been on the job for a number of months so you all know who he is … and recognize him. This seminar is really Bill's brainchild – an idea hatched as he took on this job and began thinking deeply about Concordia's future and its mission going forward.
As I said, the seminar is titled "The Liberal Arts in a Global Age." It's a timely topic. We're all challenged to embrace the rich wonders of this fascinating world we live in, but, at the same time, we struggle to adapt to the downsides. For instance, we love the inexpensive imported clothes we buy at the mall, but we're dismayed at the loss of jobs in American apparel manufacturing because those jobs are moving overseas. We marvel that Twitter feeds can bring us news from the middle of a revolution in Libya, but we're horrified that Internet technology allows Russian criminals to empty our bank accounts from 6,000 miles away. We're sorry that our subprime mortgages brought European banks to their knees, and even sorrier that the continuing problems of European banks are now depressing our retirement accounts. We're grateful that the global demand for food is putting money in the pockets of farmers from the Red River Valley, but we're concerned that our intensive energy use contributes to rising sea levels.
Globalization is a challenge for individuals and societies. It's also a big challenge for institutions like Concordia College and its community and requires us to think deeply and creatively about what's taught here and what's learned here.
It is useful to remember that the college itself is the product of globalization. It was founded about 120 years ago by Norwegian immigrants to this region. Initially, as an academy focused on a liberal arts and classical curriculum, the subjects of study considered essential for every free citizen for 2,000 years. It's also interesting to note that the second president of Concordia wasn't a great fan of that curriculum and initiated a new "commerce/business" oriented curriculum. That's an impulse certainly alive today in American education as the job market has become intensely competitive and students covet the practical skills that might give them a leg up. Of course, the liberal arts weathered that storm and Concordia became the respected liberal arts college it is today.
It's also worth noting that the college already has a quite celebrated international orientation. Its May Seminars abroad have introduced tens of thousands of students to new cultures and ideas. And Concordia ranks among the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the number of its students who study abroad. The college also won a Paul Simon Award in 2006 for the globalization of its curriculum. And of course there are the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages, which have been helping students understand and communicate across cultures for decades.
But as globalization accelerates and as cultures continue to clash and integrate, it would be folly to be complacent. So Dr. Craft is issuing a call to the Concordia community to embrace this challenge and opportunity, and examine how Concordia will compete for students in this environment and prepare them to positively "influence the affairs of the broader world" to paraphrase the college's mission statement.
We are fortunate to have four distinguished scholars with us today to jumpstart the discussion.
First of all, John Churchill, the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honorary society. It was founded more than two centuries ago to advocate for and recognize excellence in the study of the liberal arts and sciences. As secretary, Dr. Churchill is functionally the CEO of the organization. He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a doctor of philosophy degree at Yale.
Also, with us is Earl Lewis, a 1978 graduate of Concordia College and now provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, and professor of history and African American studies at Emory University. Dr. Lewis is the author and co-editor of a number of books including the award-winning To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (Oxford University Press, 2000). Dr. Lewis became a member of Concordia's Board of Regents in 2008.
We also have two scholars from Concordia's faculty to help guide us today.
Professor of history Linda Johnson is a specialist in the Middle East and East Asia. She earned her doctorate at Stanford University. Among other things she is leading the development of an Asian studies program at Concordia. She was also faculty chair of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in 2008, a wonderful event in which I was privileged to participate.
Also with us is professor Susan O'Shaughnessy of the Concordia philosophy department. She earned her doctorate at the University of Notre Dame and her undergraduate degree in philosophy at St. Olaf College. She's a specialist in the work of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. At the core of his teaching is a sustained argument for the foundational role that perception plays in understanding the world as well as engaging with the world. Last year Dr. O'Shaughnessy was conference director of the 36th International Merleau-Ponty Circle, which was hosted by Concordia.
Here's how things will work. Dr. Churchill will speak to us for about 20 minutes, then we'll have a 10-minute response to his thoughts from Dr. O'Shaughnessy. Then we'll have a presentation by Dr. Lewis, followed by a response from Dr. Johnson. After that we'll include all of you in the discussion, so pay attention and begin formulating your thoughts and questions. Dr. Churchill, welcome to Concordia. You have the floor.