Dean's Corner

The hardened divisions we see across politics, between communities, and in the media have made their way onto campuses and can affect student life and classroom learning, leaving students wary of how they can engage productively with others with different life experiences and viewpoints. 

In CLA, we believe that a strong liberal arts education can address these challenges head-on. However students might identify themselves on the social-political landscape, The Public Life Project (PLP) will help students engage in productive discussion and dialogue across differences, expose themselves to diverse thought, enhance their ability to see the world through others’ eyes, and promote healthy and vibrant civic life. 

The PLP—a project unique in the Big 10—will help students develop these tools and civic competencies through coursework, public events, and a variety of on- and off-campus experiences. Classes and experiences for students are underway this semester. As the project expands, it will support faculty research on these topics and offer workshops on teaching challenging material and engaging students across the broad spectrum of backgrounds on campus.

We’ll also be inviting you, our alumni and friends, and the general public to join us at several PLP events planned for this fall. These include:

  • kickoff with PLP faculty and students (September 21) discussing polarization, misinformation, religious literacy, debate design, and more.
  • The 36th Annual Silha Lecture: The First Amendment and Diversity—A Marketplace Failure featuring S. Jenell Triggon will examine how our robust “marketplace of ideas” in today’s America has failed (October 26)
  • A conversation with CNN correspondent Abby Phillip on journalism and public trust (October 28); and a discussion with Walt Jacobs, editor of Sparked, reflecting on the murder of George Floyd and the calls for change that followed in Minnesota and around the country (November 5). 

You’ll also have the opportunity to see the PLP on television and online. CLA has partnered with Twin Cities PBS (TPT) to create a series of videos that explore the challenges of political polarization, navigating information and misinformation in a digital media landscape, and teaching about religion in a secular institution. They have begun airing on TPT and you can see them in full on TPT’s website.

The PLP is another example of how your alma mater is using the values and skills of a liberal arts education to be best for the world. And as the past 18 months have demonstrated, this impact has never been more necessary. We hope you’ll help spread the word about the PLP, its events, and how the liberal arts are teaching students to foster meaningful, respectful, and engaged public lives.

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