How the Liberal Arts Can Prepare Entrepreneurs

In his most recent column in the Huffington Post, President and Sociologist D. Michael Lindsay explores the many benefits of a liberal arts education, especially for future entrepreneurs. 

Useful Innovation: The Next Great Challenge for Liberal Arts Colleges

President Lindsay

By D. Michael Lindsay

“It’s happening all around us, and the higher education community needs to pay attention. More and more, young people today are looking to entrepreneurial opportunities as the way of advancing the common good. Whether starting an innovative non-profit or a socially conscious business, these emerging leaders are motivated to make a difference with their lives.

“I’ve seen it in my own community just north of Boston. Gordon College alum Sam Winslow, for example, recently founded Thirst Footwear, which will fund new wells in sub-Saharan Africa through every shoe purchase. Then there’s the Accessible Icon Project — a collaboration between faculty members Brian Glenney and Tim Ferguson-Sauder, current Gordon students, Cambridge artist Sarah Hendron, and the disability advocacy group Triangle — which is working to change public perceptions of disability through a more active, engaged visual representation of the ‘Handicap Symbol.’ Gordon College itself has recently partnered with Praxis Labs, an organization that supports the development of new social enterprises through mentoring and funding opportunities.

“An entrepreneurial spirit is thriving among the next generation. Yet in order to turn their ambition into action, today’s students will need a solid foundation that prepares them for the unique challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship. This is where a strong liberal arts education can give young entrepreneurs a significant advantage.” READ THE REST OF PRESIDENT LINDSAY’S COLUMN.

Painting a Poem: Herman on Eliot

Bruce Herman

Out of a dinner conversation between artists and friends, a unique collaboration of “poetry, paint and music” was born. QU4RTETS, a touring exhibit featuring the paintings of Bruce Herman, Gordon’s Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts, opens in the Gallery April 13 and runs through May 1. Here’s how Herman describes his work in his artist’s statement:

“My work here is painted in parallel form to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets—not as a direct illustration of specific lines. I’ve steeped in the beautiful language and imagery of the poem but avoided attempting a visual equivalent of Eliot’s text. I’ve tried rather to find a fitting means to respond, in the medium of paint, to the same realities that moved the poet.

“Eliot’s ideas on cultural memory have been a guiding light to me over the course of four decades as I’ve tried to bridge traditional figure painting and modern abstraction—looking for an objective correlative (Eliot’s term) in order to achieve significant emotion in painting. He emphasized the necessity of submitting oneself to tradition in order to make something authentically new, and this resonated deeply for me growing up in the 1960s, an era of massive cultural upheaval.

“In this collaboration with Mako Fujimura and Chris Theofanidis, I am addressing an old painterly tradition: the Four Seasons and Four Stages of life (implicit in Four Quartets). I’ve also interacted directly with Eliot’s use of the Four Elements—earth, air, fire, and water—especially as seen in ‘Little Gidding,’ in which Eliot employs Dante’s terza rima style to create a set of meditations on death and resurrection (‘This is the death of air’ or ‘This is the death of water and fire’). I’ve also tried to point toward the mysterious ‘fifth element’ (quintessence) known to the classical and medieval mind as the æther, that element believed to suffuse and enfold all things.

“Working with the rule of four, pointing toward the fifth element, I’ve laid out a gold and silver grid that is interwoven with every other layer of the paintings. This grid functions both as a time signature and, because of the unpredictability of the light reflections, as an emerging temporal narrative both inside and outside of the painting (the viewer completes the work with his or her reflection—in effect giving me a chance to disappear as author of the finished work). As the light changes or one passes in front of the image, the reflective surface of the gold and silver shifts, bending the light and invoking that liquid, spiritual light in which we live and move and have our being––the quintessence or presence of God.

“I’m grateful to Mr. Eliot for leaving behind a path I could follow in order to locate a place of ‘complete simplicity costing not less than everything,’ to bear witness to the very same hope that is repeated twice in the poem in the words of Julian of Norwich: ‘And all shall be well, and / All manner of thing shall be well.’ A costly hope that is only possible, in Eliot’s setting, ‘When the tongues of flame are in-folded / Into the crowned knot of fire / And the fire and rose are one.'”

An Innovative Slave Narrative Affects Popular Culture

Andrea Frankwitz

William Wells Brown, one of the country’s first African American writers to publish a variety of creative works, was also a slave. As part of her ongoing scholarship on slave narratives, Andrea Frankwitz, associate professor of English, will present on Brown’s literary contributions at the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., March 27-30, 2013.

Here’s Frankwitz’s abstract of her talk, “Mastering the Picaro: Rhetorical Reversals in the Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave”:

“Notable for being the first African American to publish a novel, a play, a travel narrative, and a history of black soldiers, William Wells Brown rose to prominence while still legally a slave, having become a popular speaker in the abolitionist circuit.  What naturally followed from this was the publication of his own slave account, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Written By Himself (1847).  Though by this point in time, the slave narrative genre had further developed from its Middle Passage and action-oriented beginnings in the eighteenth-century to then, in the midst of the Romantic era, a more thoughtful and introspective first-person story, Brown may almost appear to have reversed course.  Departing a bit from the prototypically autobiographical story of enslavement that Douglass provides, Brown, instead, seems novelistic in approach.   Despite its being a best seller in its day, Brown’s Narrative now receives far less critical attention than his novel, Clotel.  It may well be, though, that Brown’s innovations in his slave narrative have resulted in critics’ being confused about its genre classification, seeing it as having an identity crisis of sorts.  

“While, admittedly, his story seems far less autobiographical than that of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Jacobs, Brown may well have sought to complicate his rendition of the slave narrative. In Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Brown draws upon but re-appropriates the picaresque tradition to rewrite the master’s property book, thus rhetorically repositioning himself and his former slave-owner(s) and inverting their power relations.”

Discovering a New Way to Listen to Sufjan’s “Illinois”

There are several ways to listen to music, and new theories are emerging often, even for classic rock albums. As part of his ongoing musical scholarship, Jonathan Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, and his wife Alison, also a musician and poet, have explored one such new theory. As a result, the Gerber’s—who toured with their band in their native country of Australia—have been accepted to present at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music, April 11-13, 2013, in Grand Rapids, MI. Here’s Gerber’s abstract of their talk entitled, “How to Listen to Illinoise“:

Jonathan and Alison Gerber

“This talk will outline a new theory of Sufjan’s Illinois, the last great post-rock album, and perhaps the last great Christian statement of art. While often appreciated as an auteur piece or as an influence on the banjo-folk revival, Illinois is best listened to as a minimalist piece in the tradition of Wim Merten’s book, American Minimal Music. In Illinois, Sufjan neatly weaved together threads from many areas of twentieth century music, using the post-rock techniques of one of his heroes: Stereolab. This paper and presentation thus charts a history from early 20th century classical through Phillip Glass, Brian Wilson, Talking Heads, and the post-rock of Stereolab.

“However, Illinois is far from being a bower-bird collection of styles that these other artists became because the concrete topic of a state allowed this twentieth century noise to become something new, for a coherent narrative statement to arise out of the bubbling influences. Illinois solved the problem of minimalism by breaking its boundaries. To listen to this solution, we need a new way of listening, a way that is truly minimal. We will explore how to listen like a minimalist and then how that impacts our appreciation of Illinois. In doing so, we will see a hidden structure at the heart of the album, one that all existing critics, and perhaps Sufjan himself, have missed.”

Math as a Means of Helping Humanity

On Saturday, March 2, 2013, dozens of practitioners from a variety of non-profit organizations gathered at Gordon for a first day-long conference entitled, “Humanitarian Response: Innovation to Meet Needs.” Organized and led by Mike Veatch, professor and chair of mathematics and computer science, and colleague Jarrod Goesntzel at MIT’s Humanitarian Response Lab, participants heard from representatives at agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and the Salvation Army. Here’s how Veatch described it:

Mike Veatch

“This conference brought together practitioners of humanitarian response and international health, students considering a career in this area, and academic researchers. Supply systems are critical to humanitarian response, yet the contexts present unique challenges for logistics management, which is where the role of mathematics comes in. Speakers talked, for instance, about the logistics of humanitarian responses in situations ranging from the 2010 Haiti earthquake to the recent Hurricane Sandy. Because this type of work can be somewhat technical, gatherings like this were best suited for students and scholars with some background in math, statistics, or economics as well as an interest in humanitarian work. Certainly, it’s easy to see how math, nonprofit management, economics and business, biology, health professions, international affairs, and sociology all come together when discussing crucial and innovative ways to respond to humanitarian crises. As we discussed international health, food aid and disaster response, we recognized how important it is to be working together and sharing our resources and expertise for the best possible services we can provide. And I think our program discussions reflected what it means to deliver the best health and humanitarian assistance we can find.”

In Memory: David Lumsdaine, Pastoral Scholar & Friend

Timothy Sherratt, professor of political science, offered the following reflection at the memorial service of colleague and friend, David Lumsdaine, who passed away last Wednesday morning, February 27, 2013:

“Could it be fewer than six years ago that I met David Lumsdaine for the first time when we brought him to interview at Gordon College? The Wheaton political science chairman who urged me to consider him for our open position described David’s demeanor as pastoral, telling me that in one short year many students had beaten a path to his door for advice and counsel. And in the subsequent years, more than I could ever have expected to, I gained a new purchase on the meaning of loyalty in friendship, got closer to humble genius than I ever expected to, and saw teaching and scholarship practiced with passion and care from one who loved God and neighbor with unguarded enthusiasm.   

We mourn the loss of our friend. The suddenness of his departure is shocking. We will feel the full weight of it over the weeks and months ahead as we grieve. And yet I believe we will witness something else, too, something even weightier. We will witness the fruit of the good seed David cultivated in the lives of students and colleagues and church family alike. Continue reading

Chores for Kids? Absolutely, Writes History Professor in Boston Globe Magazine

Agnes Howard

Today’s parents often let their children off the hook when it comes to household chores, but Agnes Howard, assistant professor of history, writes in Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine (March 3, 2013) that when kids contribute around the house, great things can happen. Not only does the cleaning get done but they develop a sense of accomplishment that has lasting effects. Here’s the start of Howard’s article, entitled, “Why Your Children Should Do Their Chores”:

“EVERY YEAR, busloads of schoolchildren take field trips to the mills at Lowell National Historical Park. While chaperone mothers tote tankards of iced coffee and admire the charming red-brick factories that date from the 1820s, students examine spinning and weaving machines operated by ‘mill girls’ as young as 10 and envision the roar and sweat of fiber-saturated rooms in full production. Properly horrified, young visitors draw the conclusion that only mean, bad people make children work. Then they retreat to their own world of school and play . . . read more.”