Will Shifting Depts. Leave Room for Liberal Arts?

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Academics

Lisa Kaminski

As the visual arts prepare to move to the new Visual and Theatre Arts Center in 2012, the professional schools ready themselves to move into the vacated space, but the moving of nursing to the top floor of DeRicci and social science and foreign language to the bottom leaves some wondering if this is a symbolic move regarding the college’s perspective on the liberal arts.

Edgewood has a long history of integrating both liberal arts and professional studies.  In 1940, the college began offering formal teacher training in addition to its roster of classes in the arts and sciences.  However, the upcoming shirt in offices and a recent restructuring of the college demonstrate that perhaps the liberal arts are not as prominent as they once were.

“I am worried about the symbolic significance of the moves that are being considered.” -Melanie Herzog

Social sciences professor Cindy Rolling pointed out that several years ago, Edgewood revised its structure by creating different schools out of the numerous majors and programs offered.  Education, nursing, and business–the professional studies–each became their own school with their own dean along with the School of Integrative Studies and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.  The remaining 15 departments in the liberal arts were lumped together into the School of Arts and Sciences represented by one dean.

Rolling pointed out that the system does not accurately promote each department, rather “it sets up a problem for the liberal arts and our identity.”  And she believes the reorganization of academics at Edgewood could hurt the college.

Having only one dean to represent nearly 40 majors makes communication difficult.  “We don’t have an easy conduit for the PLT [Presidential Leadership Team],” said Rolling.  She said, “Structurally it’s proven not to work.”

Rolling suggests that the academic organization at Edgewood’s sister school Dominican University  in Illinois is perhaps more effective.  Rather than combining the liberal arts into one school, Dominican University created a college of arts and sciences divided into smaller schools along with schools for various professional studies.  This would allow for greater representation for the arts and sciences.

But what has some faculty members worried now is not so much the organization of academics, but the move of nursing to the top floor of DeRicci, displacing social sciences and foreign language.  Art professor Melanie Herzog said, “I am worried about the symbolic significance of the moves that are being considered.”  Placing the nursing school on the highest floor may signify the professional studies’ importance over that of the arts and sciences.

Howver, Herzog also pointed out that the addition of a new fine arts building is encouraging.  “I see it as a strong affirmation by the college of the arts as central to the liberal arts,” she said.

The shuffling of departments will come “at the price of further fragmenting the arts and sciences.” -Cindy Rolling

What Rolling is concerned about with the future move is the new dynamic on the third floor of the Predolin-DeRicci complex.  Currently housing many of the departments in the school of arts and sciences, Rolling says that there’s a type of synergy found on the third floor.  The closely nestled offices allow for professors to talk to one another and brainstorm ideas that span departments, and Rolling would like to see this atmosphere preserved.

She said that the shuffling of departments will come “at the price of further fragmenting the arts and sciences.”

Despite what may lie in the future, Rolling is confident that Edgewood’s liberal arts tradition will remain, as there are dedicated professors in the school of arts and sciences as well as many supportive members of the faculty in the professional schools.

However, Rolling believes that change is necessary for the liberal arts to become a more prominent part of Edgewood.  “If we could restructure, gain strength, then we could go forward,” she said.

Regardless of representation, Rolling believes that the arts and sciences “will continue to do good,” but given more clout at Edgewood,” we could do great things.

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