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College Receives Grant to Develop Multicultural Sequence to Core Curriculum

By James Devitt

Columbia College's Heyman Center for the Humanities has been awarded a $309,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support a series of workshops for the development of a multicultural sequence in the College's Core Curriculum.

The Core Curriculum began in 1919 with the establishment of the Contemporary Civilization course on war and peace issues. The creation of Literature Humanities followed in 1937. By 1947, Art Humanities and Music Humanities had been added and in 1948-49 a new series of Asian Civilization and Humanities was introduced, with additional courses following in the Major Cultures category.

Historically, College undergraduates have had access to general education courses dealing with world cultures, but nothing that brings them together in cross-cultural dialogue at the highest level of the College experience -- in senior seminars or colloquia. To meet this latter need, the current grant will support a series of three-week workshops in which faculty, post-doctoral fellows and preceptors in core courses will discuss major texts, themes and issues in the major world traditions central to general education and suitable for further exploration in upper-level college seminars. The first workshop will run May 28 through June 13 and will focus on concepts of Nobility (i.e., leadership) and Civility. A later session will deal with the Medieval to Enlightenment periods and a third session will address the modern period.

"This effort will contribute to the broadening and deepening of the liberal education that Columbia College has long been known for," said Columbia College Dean Austin Quigley.

"This project can provide a model for integrated undergraduate education centered on common human values and issues while also recognizing cultural differences," added Wm. Theodore de Bary, director of the Heyman Center and the John Mitchell Mason Professor and Provost Emeritus of the University.

De Bary also noted that the inclusion of a multicultural sequence in the Core Curriculum was anticipated by founders of the Core Curriculum like Dean Harry Carman and Mark Van Doren. In Van Doren's Liberal Education (Henry Holt 1943) he argued that Eastern and Western perspectives should be brought into an education global in scope.

Main participants in the first workshop will be Kathy Eden, chair of the Humanities program; Hamid Dabashi, chair of Middle East department; Ryyuishi Abe, chair of Religion; Julian Franklin (Political Theory); James Mirollo (Comparative Literature); George Saliba (Islamic Philosophy); Peter Pouncey, former Dean of the College and President Emeritus of Amherst College (Classics); Dean Mary McGee (Indian Religion); Professor de Bary (Asian Philosophies) and other senior scholars. David Johnston, Singer Professor of Columbia College, contributed to the planning of the workshops.

Published: May 17, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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