The Lifelong Journey of the Liberal Arts

7 September 2023

Tuesday was a busy day on campus, as families arrived, the Class of 2027 moved in, and New Student Week activities got underway. Meanwhile, the faculty paused in the midst of their final course preparation to gather at the Weitz Center for the annual Faculty Retreat. The subject matter of this year’s retreat was an inspiring sample of the intellectual energy and creativity that makes Carleton special.

The faculty chose to devote their retreat to sharing and celebrating scholarship, creative work, pedagogy, and community engagement. At Carleton, faculty spend a great deal of time talking about teaching, and that constant attention to pedagogical practice is an important source of teaching excellence. But great teaching is also fed and nourished by continued scholarly research and writing, creative production and performance, and other forms of ongoing professional engagement. It was exciting to be reminded that Carleton faculty are highly accomplished at that as well.

On Tuesday, the Weitz became a conference center, as more than forty faculty presented “flash talks” of 15 minutes each in four sets of sessions over the course of the morning. Faculty from every department, at every stage of their careers, gave fascinating snapshots of their work on topics as diverse as: “Spatial Statistics and Policing: Opportunities and Challenges,” “Games as Community Pedagogy,” “Fake News (from 1862!) Pictorial Journalism and the U.S. Civil War,” and “Modeling Microbial Flatulence on Ancient Earth.”  

An English professor described the years-long process through which his dream about a tragic incident from his past was eventually transformed into a novel. A music professor outlined the painstaking examination of individual tracks of studio recordings from the 1960s that allowed him to reconstruct the history of a famous singer’s struggle to maintain her career in the face of a devastating illness. Each talk had an eager audience of faculty colleagues from a range of disciplines asking smart questions and offering thoughtful feedback. 

The opportunity to share and get feedback on a work in progress, or to hear about a colleague’s area of research, is one of the many ways in which faculty continue to expand their knowledge. Their curiosity and commitment to continued learning provides a wonderful model to our students of the lifelong journey that is liberal arts education.

Featured in Carleton Today, September 7, 2023