Faculty share research emphasizing the importance of liberal arts education

Athena Benjamin, Writer

As a part of President Miles K. Davis’ inauguration,  four faculty members presented their research and how it related to a liberal arts education at a faculty symposium in Ice Auditorium on Thursday.

Lissa Wadewitz, history professor with a focus on the United States, introduced her research on the adventures of Ranald McDonald.

McDonald was a 17th-century  Oregonian who became the first English speaker to teach English in Japan, which was a closed off nation.

Wadewitz said that although McDonald began his work as a banker he dreamed of far off places and exciting adventures.

He became a whaler and brought a boat near Japan where he purposefully shipwrecked himself. McDonald  was able to convince the natives to let him live and teach started teaching them English.

After almost a year in Japan, McDonald went back to North America and later continued to travel. McDonald was a key figure in changing Japan’s closed foreign policy and connecting them with other nations.

Wadewitz said that if indigenous and maritime history is taken more seriously, a different but important image of global history can be introduced and expanded. She said that a liberal arts education is vital in understanding these lesser known histories.

Chad Tillberg began his presentation with an anecdote of a day in the life of an ant, dinoponera australis, one of the largest ants in the world. He highlighted the hard work, intelligence and complex social structures of these insects.

Ants are one of the few species in the world that have a complex social structure in their colonies and Tillberg asked many questions about the way the ants structure their colonies. Many of the those questions have parallels in human social structures.

“If these examples make you think of other things, other situations in your personal life, then it’s because you’re thinking like a liberal arts graduate,” Tillberg said.

Tillberg also said that a benefit of the of the liberal arts education is being able to work closely with faculty and students in this kind of research.

Professor of French and Francophone studies, Marie Noussi, discussed the benefits of polyculture.

Growing up in Cameroon, which has 200 different ethnic groups and languages, she experienced both a monoculture and polyculture.

Due to French colonization, many of the cultures within Cameroon were homogenized. Noussi’s parents were forced to only speak French in school and to recite the French national anthem in class every day.

French colonialists attempted to reduce all culture and language in Cameroon to create a monoculture.

Noussi said that liberal arts combat monoculture because it embraces culture and diversity.

“The university system does not yield to monocultural pressures but must rather aim at maintaining its primary mission that is opening students to the universe,” Noussi said.

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, English professor with a focus on Shakespearean studies, explained his work to modernize Shakespeare’s language and how the community has reacted.

With the help of Linfield students, he updated the language. This produced resentment from many scholars in this community, believing that Pollack-Pelzner is destroying masterpieces.

However, in many other languages including English Shakespeare’s text is completely altered and made to fit contemporary speech.It embraces gendered, cultural, and racial diversity but is criticized for changing Shakespeare’s pieces too much.

After describing his work with Shakespeare, he discussed how Shakespearean studies can help those in any industry because valuable skills learned can  cross over from analyzing plays and history.