Liberal Education in the 21st Century and Georgetown’s Jesuit Roots
On February 14, 2013, students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered for the fourth annual Doyle Symposium to examine how the university’s engagement with difference and diversity could make Georgetown’s liberal arts education even more effective. The symposium fostered discussion and reflection on several salient questions: What does a 21st-century liberal arts education look like, and what does it mean to engage difference in this context? What opportunities and challenges exist, and how do we best prepare students for them? What can we learn from Georgetown’s Jesuit heritage? How might new technologies reshape and inspire us to rethink more traditional educational practices in the liberal arts? How can study abroad programs best promote intercultural competence?
The symposium began with a plenary panel composed of Berkley Center Director Thomas Banchoff, Professor John W. O’Malley, SJ (Theology), and Associate Dean Dennis Williams. The panel looked backward and forward as it examined the Jesuit roots underpinning Georgetown’s commitment to engaging difference and facilitated conversation on how that heritage plays out today in liberal education for a global era. Discussion also centered on transitioning student reactions from surprise to engagement when confronted with diversity outlets on campus, as well as how to incentivize greater faculty involvement.
The second panel featured Associate Provost Randy Bass, Soliya founder Lucas Welch, and Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ’14) and focused on the power of new communications technologies, specifically the Soliya Project, to encourage intercultural engagement by connecting students from around the world. Panelist Lucas Welch described, ““It’s not about new technology, but about pushing people to connect directly with diversity through technology.” It was noted that success in intercultural dialogue has to be marked by more than the mere connection of people; rather, technology must be harnessed in ways that push us toward meaningful discussions of difference.
The symposium closed with a look at the Georgetown Junior Year Abroad experience and the Berkley Center’s Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN) with Professor Michael Kessler (Berkley Center), Nicole Fleury (SFS ‘14), and Audrey Wilson (SFS ‘14). Highlighting the increasingly robust exchange system at Georgetown, their panel considered how the rich study abroad experience can shape and deepen student engagement with issues of intercultural and interreligious understanding. As panelist Audrey Wilson observed, ”Once in an unfamiliar country, you are unable to tune out the cultural experiences.” Panelists also emphasized the critical need to integrate students directly into families and other elements of the local community.
The inspiring conversations among the panelists and audience members reflected deep interest in issues of difference and engagement with diversity at Georgetown. They also showed that positive engagement with these issues is not a matter of mere contact or tolerance. In addition to utilizing the tools of a 21st century university to create spaces for interaction, we must actively cultivate a positive culture of diversity. The Doyle Symposium helps foster this culture by connecting various people and programs across the university that are involved in this important work.
Return to the Doyle Symposia page.