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Dear Students in the Class of 2017:
The Dia: Beacon, a minimalist modern art museum in upstate New York, features two artists whose work embodies the challenges of becoming a liberally educated person. The first artist, Fred Sandback, fills rooms with “sculptures” made out of simple twine and pieces of string. Walking into a Sandback room, these “sculptures” appear as “walls” and “barriers” that one must carefully move around. Yet, it is all an illusion. There are no actual structures blocking the path, only the skewed, destabilizing perception that one can’t move freely forward; and it is all created by pieces of string! The second artist, Richard Serra, goes in the opposite direction and creates huge, rolled-steel plate “sculptures” that are thick and weigh over twenty tons. As one walks through Serra’s “Double-Torqued Ellipses,” he or she is always in close proximity to the steel skins of the pieces. This creates a dramatic tension between one’s bodily awareness and one’s vision. One’s response to Serra’s work is not based on “looking and seeing” but rather on the impact of one’s bodily awareness of the intimate surroundings that these huge pieces create. Serra thus gives us a whole new way of “looking” at the world.
Part of the challenge for all of us as we embark on our intellectual journey in the liberal arts is to move beyond illusive walls and barriers and open ourselves up to new ways of “looking” at the world. Sandback and Serra force us to ask these questions. What are the limitations of our own perceptions of the world? How do our individual biases and world-views limit our understanding by creating illusive “walls” and “barriers”? How do we break out of tradition and appreciate multiple frameworks for understanding and learning? Becoming a “liberally educated” person entails a process of opening up to new ways of “looking and seeing” the world around us. To a large degree, our General Education program at Eckerd College is dedicated to helping you envision the world in new ways.
Human Experience is a two-course sequence and the cornerstone of your first year academic program at Eckerd College. The course will hopefully provide you with a foundation in the liberal arts and awaken your intellectual interests. Please spend some time reflecting on the Course Overview which provides a detailed explanation of our approach to the liberal arts in Human Experience.
At the end of the two-semester sequence of Human Experience, you will be well on your way to thinking critically about the world around you and your place in this world. But, this is just the beginning. By the time you arrive at your senior year, having laid the foundation with Human Experience, and fortified it with a breadth of General Education courses outside of your intended major, you will be ready to examine the liberal arts more deeply in our senior capstone course, Quest for Meaning. But your intellectual journey, of course, doesn’t stop there; it is really a life-long quest and adventure.
We are delighted that you have chosen Eckerd College to begin your journey. We are honored to help you in this endeavor.
Associate Dean of General Education