Photo: Jacob Boll (BA '12)
Photo: Jacob Boll (BA '12)
Just as President John F. Kennedy’s beautifully crafted inaugural address exhorts us to bridge the past and the present, marking eras “symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning,” so, too, must we embrace change along with the strengths of which we are proud. 

A Message From the Dean

As in the three issues of @LAS that precede this, I have had the honor of crafting a message to help set the tone for the contents of each issue. @LAS is the annual magazine of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Columbia College Chicago, showcasing the outstanding students, faculty members, alumni, and programs in the School within the rich context of the College.

For these pages in 2012, I broached the subject of change—“Nought may endure but mutability,” as poet Percy Shelley writes—while reaffirming that the tenets of a broad-based, steadfast commitment to the liberal arts and sciences writ large is our constant amidst the inevitability of change.

In 2011, I noted that being mindful of Columbia’s history reaffirms that we “seek to challenge, to enlighten, to open minds in ways that will benefit students academically, creatively, and personally.” And previously, for our inaugural issue in 2010, I wrote that a broad and rigorous liberal education is in many ways “the core of who we are as an institution”—that “every undergraduate student at Columbia College Chicago,” no matter her or his major, “is a student of the School of LAS.”

Now, in 2013, we in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences have been granted an additional honor: a one-on-one interview in this issue with our new President, Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, who took office on 1 July of this year. Among other salient topics, the conversation conveys Dr. Kim’s perspective on the complementary nature of creativity and wide-ranging knowledge.

Notes Dr. Kim, “The idea of educating people for a specific profession is a very obsolete model. It assumes that the world is fairly static and that you can bring young people in and four or five years later they will have whatever they need to succeed in a career as if that career hasn’t changed.”

How should we prepare our students, then? According to Dr. Kim, “by giving [students] proficiencies and capacity, and that can only be done through a broader way of educating students. … And that is what the liberal arts are about.” The interview with Dr. Kim is the centerpiece of this year’s issue, and we thank him for his considerable time and his in-depth, candid conversation with Brent White.

While I’m sure any number of us could have a vigorous conversation in which we debate what a broad-based, thoroughgoing education entails, Dr. Kim’s remarks hold particular meaning for me as I reflect on an educational leadership trip I took to Eastern Europe this past spring. Among other, less fraught places, I visited Nazi concentration camps—Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, specifically—and was reminded of the complex burdens of history, genocide, intolerance, culture, religious freedom, race, and, certainly, of the need to preserve, respect, and learn from history.

Contrast this with a conversation I overheard on the plane between two college-age women: Woman One: “Oooh. Tel Aviv. We should go to Tel Aviv.” Woman two: “Where’s Tel Aviv?” (She wasn’t kidding.) Clearly, and as I noted in last year’s issue, there exists an urgent need to educate “the whole human being,” while also “preparing our students for their lives as informed and intellectually engaged citizens.”

I trust you will also enjoy this year’s cover, crafted for @LAS by award-winning illustrator and Columbia College Chicago faculty member Ivan Brunetti. His design reflects not only the gist of Professor Rami Gabriel’s work on American consumerism (also featured in this issue), but also the importance of an ability to sort through and assess the advertisements and information with which we are constantly barraged.

We continue, therefore, our collaborative work for the students of Columbia College Chicago in this new, exciting era for our institution. Just as President John F. Kennedy’s beautifully crafted inaugural address exhorts us to bridge the past and the present, marking eras “symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning,” so, too, must we embrace change along with the strengths of which we are proud. Kennedy proclaims, “[S]o let us begin anew…” to work together, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,” using for the benefit of our entire community “the energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor.”

In our work, we also expect to be well-informed by data points that exist around us—not just by numbers, but through conversations with students, parents, faculty members, and many others. We in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences promise no less than full devotion to our collective, collaborative endeavor.

Deborah H. Holdstein, PhD
Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences