The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences just added 26 new members to its roster, all of whom share an unique attribute.
None of them are college-aged.
As part of a new program called CLASS Seminars, the college selected 26 students from local private and public high schools to participate in lectures over the course of two years, starting the spring of their sophomore year.
The purpose of this program, said Dr. David Curtis, associate dean of CLASS and the leader of the seminar series, is multifaceted.
First, it serves as a clarification for what exactly is meant by the term “liberal arts.”
“One thing it helps to do is explain what the humanities and social sciences are,” he said. “It’s difficult for a lot of people who are not in university to understand what these are because generally you end up with a job that has a different name than the major you’re in.”
Additionally, the series also seeks to broaden the horizons of its students by exposing them “to something that they’re really passionate about but they had no idea about,” he said.
In doing so, Curtis also hopes to enable the students to make more informed major and minor decisions when they reach college age, he said.
The final group of 26 participants was whittled down from a pool of 113 nominees. Requirements for the program included a minimum, unweighted 3.0 GPA, a recommendation from their school and a “genuine interest” in learning, he said.
Over the span of the program’s two years, the students will have the opportunity to attend as many as 24 lectures led by Belmont professors and Nashville area professionals.
Once they graduate, the students will have accrued 27 to 36 hours of college level lecture and discussion from the program.
The first official event was held two weeks ago, in which the students attended a showing of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the Troutt Theatre. Then on Jan. 15, Dr. Marcia McDonald, professor of English, alongside Denice Hicks, the artistic director for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, conducted the inaugural seminar.
The class served as an English-theatre hybrid in which the students staged, directed and acted in portions of “Twelfth Night,” asked questions about the show and learned more about the playwright, but, more importantly, themselves.
“Everyone seemed engaged the whole evening,” said McDonald. “It was an exceptional group of students.”
As important as it may be for the seminar program to assist students in finding themselves, both McDonald and Curtis hope it will help the new college in the exact same way.
“We’re doing a lot of things in the college this first year to work on what our identity is as a college and also to make sure that people both on campus as well as people who are off campus understand what our identity is and what we exist to do,” said Curtis.
Looking forward, Curtis said he hopes more and more people will become involved in the program because, ultimately, it’s not about any one college or program, but the university as a whole.
“I think as we go along one hope I have is that more and more people will want to be involved with this program,” he said. “That will make the profile bigger for our college and for the university, as a university that’s very involved in its city.”
Photo courtesy: Belmont University/Andrea Hallgren