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April 30 roundtable discussion will focus
on the value of a liberal arts education
April 23, 2014
A Liberal Arts Dialogue Group at the Community College of Rhode Island has been working for more than a year now to bring attention to the possibilities offered by the Liberal Arts program at the college. On April 30, students can explore the topic at a free roundtable discussion at 3:30 p.m. in Room 4090 at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
Professor Deborah Notarianni-Girard, chairwoman of the Foreign Languages and Cultures Department, and Professor Carol Panaccione, a faculty member in the department, co-chair the dialogue group. Panaccione said that, while General Studies is a popular major – partially because of the ease of transfer between the college and its sister schools, RIC and URI, through the Joint Admissions Agreement – the Liberal Arts program also has much to offer.
"At CCRI and in the Liberal Arts program, we're staunch supporters of the philosophy of making critical thinkers," said Panaccione. "We have a golden egg here with the Liberal Arts program, but there's a lack of awareness about it."
Notarianni-Girard said that the roundtable will offer an accessible opportunity for students as well as the larger community to learn more about the Liberal Arts program and the different career pathways available after graduating with an associate degree in Liberal Arts. Working with the Office of Alumni Affairs, the professors have put together a growing group of participants for the roundtable, including current students, faculty and alumni. Included will be former CCRI students who now teach at the college, including Associate Professor Debra Lilli in English, Professor Jack Every in Social Sciences and Assistant Professor Carol Patnaude, who is chairwoman of the Human Services Department.
"We want them to tell the story about the journey of being a liberal arts major," said Notarianni-Girard.
Students in the Liberal Arts program at the college are given the option of concentrating in English, foreign languages or mathematics with the goal of applying those two years of credits to further study in a liberal arts discipline at a four-year college.
Although the certificate programs the college offers are strong, said Panaccione, the pair want to make sure that others understand that there are valuable job training skills to be found in the liberal arts path as well.
"By reading literature, philosophy and learning about different languages, for example, the mind is able to exponentially go forth and make new connections. I want a nurse who is a critical thinker. Someone who isn't just going to give a patient a pill, someone who is going to think about what he or she is doing and make those connections," she said.
Notarianni-Girard added that the liberal arts curriculum is about encouraging problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills, both critical assets to a candidate in any job search.
"We're giving people the skills to be well-versed in many different areas, to strike the match of curiosity in their minds," said Panaccione. "We can show people worlds and say there are worlds beyond. If you read literature, or are exposed to worlds through different lenses or language, this makes you less prejudiced. You may be less prone to judge, to draw conclusions that are completely false. It enriches your life."
Notarianni-Girard said that all of the panelists have been asked to give a brief statement on how their liberal arts studies have shaped their lives, and to talk about where their journey has taken them.
Advisers will be on hand to answer any questions students may have about enrolling in the program, and refreshments will be available afterwards before the event segues into the college's 14th annual Honors Forum featuring speaker and renowned researcher Dr. Lewis Lipsitt alongside honors student presentations.
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