Tripod Editorial: Inspiring Liberal Arts Curiosity

Skyler Simpkins ’23

Editor-in-Chief

As we all know, Trinity is a small, liberal arts college. This fact is boasted throughout all of the school’s pamphlets and mailers; it is a point of pride for Trinity’s administration and admissions team. While our general education requirements do allow us to peruse the vasculature of liberal arts education, this screening is cursory, not permitting a thorough search as we remain devout to our central realm of study. This phenomenon is clear as we hear of cadres of humanities and social science majors all taking the same course to fulfill their natural science and numerical reasoning requirements. I heard this planning as early as my freshman year, humanities students putting off their natural science gen. ed requirement until their senior year, ensuring that they get in that one class that all their peers within their future major take. Striving for ease and a lack of challenge, students plan opportune scheduling moments for their gen. ed requirements not met within their major. This spits in the face of exploratory liberal arts education paths, cultivating a distaste of the central tenets of liberal arts education in students, isolating their curiosity within their own major, and suffocating the inquisitiveness innate in every human being.

The solution to this planning might be setting a limit on enrollment of scholarly concentrations in certain classes, though this will likely complicate an already infuriating scheduling process. Instead, I propose a solution that attempts to stimulate curiosity directly: issuing updates from each major to the campus community.

This can take form in many different ways, so I will stress the area of major importance: acknowledgment of diverse educational trajectories. First I want to discuss how to advertise this acknowledgment to the campus community. While being slow to begin this semester, SAIL sends out weekly event emails that detail the week’s plans for student clubs. Advertising the accomplishments of the majors, minors, and scholarly concentrations could be done through a similar pathway. SAIL emails reach a greater audience than the Trinity Today updates, and I believe the viewing rates would be better on SAIL emails as well. Ensuring that these campus releases are actually read is another concern. Long writing—like this one—will likely not keep the attention of readers, especially considering the informative writing of these press releases. Brief blurbs would be preferred. If they were accompanied by eye-catching graphics, even better! A proposed email schedule to send out weekly accomplishments of academic fields at Trinity, composed of short blurbs and graphics with links to requisite information—including links to the respective major’s requirements—would help increase the campus-wide acknowledgment of diverse educational trajectories at Trinity. While these emails will likely never reach the entire campus community, they can set the ground running with eye-catching information, discoveries, and teachings reaching some students. These students then can take their prior interest and research interdisciplinary studies within their field, incorporating the information they saw in these emails. These students begin the wave of renewed liberal arts curiosity, inspiring students to lean away from herding themselves into certain courses to fulfill outside-of-major requirements. 

Now, what goes in these graphics and blurbs? What in these emails would inspire students to “break from the norm” within their major and facilitate their academic curiosity that led them to this school? Academic concentrations can highlight a class, a student’s thesis, recent research pioneered by faculty, etcetera—the options are endless. I believe giving students the chance to create a graphic or write up a short description of their research, class, or faculty advisor, would garner greater investment in this email chain. The school could provide funding to departments allocated for student writers to receive small sums of cash (probably in the form of gift cards) for writing up about their major for these email chains. This creates a rationale for students to involve themselves in the email chain, inspiring their preview of the chain. Students can peek into a world of knowledge unknown to them before and, if they have yet declared a major, perhaps pick up a new field of study.

Instead of requiring a student to sign-up for a semester of class, a student could glance over a page of updates, seeing what goes on within the major. There is no commitment required, no effort required, and a viewing incentive (if small sums of cash are provided to student writers). Even if a department did not have the funds available, they could offer extra credit for student writers and graphic designers. Even compared to our “major fair,” which typically attracts some non-declared students, less effort is required to open up an email chain and glance over the offerings. While requiring more effort from the College to organize the chain and some from student writers, this acknowledgment of academic accomplishment and areas of study fulfills the College’s mission as a liberal arts school. 

Now that a student is inspired to pursue another avenue of study, what course should they take, and who should they contact? Here is my secondary recommendation: linked reviews to classes in the course catalog. When going through the scheduling process, we commonly lean on our peers to hear their experiences in a certain class and with a certain professor. What if this could go outside the peer group? Students could submit reviews of a course along with an identification of their major or area of study. Other students could see these reviews on the course catalog, giving them some information about how the course affects all students, including those with a similar field of study.

For Trinity to prosper, its students must be inspired to pursue a true liberal arts education. Its students must possess the curiosity to explore other academic fields. Trinity needs to step up its commitment to inspiring liberal arts inquisitiveness in its students in order to fulfill its mission as a liberal arts institution.

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