In this issue, Patricia Kitcher, the Roberta and William Campbell Professor of the Humanities and the Carnoy Family Program Chair for Contemporary Civilization, talks about the continued relevance of Contemporary Civilization in today’s world.
Kitcher says that the Core Curriculum is not only about developing knowledge and understanding concepts like justice, fairness and responsibility, but also about learning to think through complex issues and to approach problems in imaginative ways. As she says: “It helps to approach a problem as Aristotle would, or think about a problem as Mill would, because now you have a way to be in the world thinking about things. Reading a lot of very insightful people, you can understand a lot of what’s going on.”
Our role at Columbia College is to prepare students to succeed in the world of today and in the world far into the future — a future that neither we, nor they, can know or imagine. We bring together a community of students who are diverse in every respect so they can engage with ideas and perspectives that are different from their own, ideas and perspectives they may not be comfortable with, ideas and perspectives about which they may have been unaware. And through the Core, as well as other coursework, research, internships, global opportunities, extracurricular experiences and residential life, we’re helping students develop skills, competencies and capacities that will benefit them in every stage of their lives.
This means not only helping students develop knowledge, understanding, insight and empathy, but also providing opportunities for them to develop their critical thinking and research abilities; to hone their written and oral communication skills; to improve their quantitative, information and technological literacy; to engage in teamwork and collaboration; to expand their creativity and innovation; to take on civic and individual responsibility; to participate in community engagement and inclusion; and to build global awareness and a sense of wellness and resiliency.
Every class, every extracurricular activity, every internship, every residential experience, every research opportunity, every conversation and every interaction at Columbia helps our students grow personally, professionally and as citizens of the world. And our goal isn’t just for students to develop skills, capacities and capabilities, but also to understand how they developed them, where they developed them and how their experiences fit in with their entire Columbia College journey.
As students returned to campus this fall, we encouraged them to meet with advisers, program coordinators and mentors to reflect on their summer experiences; to identify what they liked, what they didn’t, what they were good at and what they weren’t; and to talk about how their experiences fit in with their journey. We want them to think of their College journey as a time for growth and development. And we want them all to realize that no two of their journeys will be the same.
We hope you, too, take the time to reflect on the skills, competencies and capacities you gained at Columbia College — what you learned, how you learned it and where you learned it. And we hope you will be willing to connect with current students through our mentoring programs — including the newly launched Odyssey Mentoring Program — to encourage them to reflect on their experiences here and to help them make the most of what they are learning and doing, inside and outside of the classroom, benefiting from your hindsight and real-world wisdom.
James J. Valentini
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.