College community discusses arts and technology, global competence at Inauguration panels
What are the effects of the rise of technology on art? How do you teach global competence and increase student engagement in local and global communities?
These are questions that require a considerable amount of thought — and highly capable minds — to answer.
As part of a weekend of events to commemorate the Inauguration of President Katherine Bergeron, Connecticut College recently hosted two academic panels that brought together faculty experts, distinguished alumni, and accomplished students to discuss these complex issues.
The first discussion, “The Arts in the Digital Age,” focused on the panelists’ experiences with technological advances that have made it possible for people to make and share creative work and the effects of technology on the arts in contemporary culture. Moderated by Ozgur Izmirli, associate professor of computer science and director of the College’s Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology, the panel included Andrea Wollensak, professor of art; Virginia Anderson, assistant professor of theater; scientific illustrator Gretchen Halpert ’81; engineer Phoebe Bakanas ’10; and Connecticut College student Matthew Safian ’15.
Technology has made art more accessible and affordable, allowing budding artists to identify their artistic interests, develop creative works and receive almost instant feedback. As a result, more amateur artists are being discovered and art forms are evolving more quickly as artists and performers seek to stand out from the crowd.
“Anyone who has a compassionate curiosity can try something out with less fear of making mistakes. In the past, materials were so expensive that you couldn’t experiment as freely and nurture your passions,” said Anderson.
Working artists in many fields have had to adapt to ever-evolving technology, while audiences are enjoying broader accessibility and interaction with the arts. Safian lauded the value of an interdisciplinary education in this environment.
“I study graphic design, computer science, psychology and art,” said Safian. “To be a graphic designer, you need to be able to solve problems; in computer science, you have to think logically; in psychology, you have to understand people; and in art, you need to be able to use creativity to find beauty and harmony in your work. Whatever the future holds, you have the tools to tackle it.”
The second panel, “The World Is Our Home: Higher Education in Local/Global Communities,” focused on the role higher education plays in the community, both locally and globally, and how the College curriculum helps students develop global competence. The panel was moderated by Amy Dooling, associate professor of Chinese literature at Connecticut College. Panelists included Jane Dawson, Weinmann Professor of Government and Environmental Studies; Sunil Bhatia, professor of human development; attorney Lauren Burke ’06; student Gabrielle Arenge ’14; and Stephen Flynn, professor of political science at Northeastern and adviser to President Barack Obama.
Burke suggested that before students can make a difference in the community, they must understand themselves first.
“The academic approach to learning about different cultures used to be studying them and finding all the information you could about them. Now, we realize that whenever you’re engaging with another person, you’re engaging with someone who is different. This takes an inward reflection on who we are before we can understand others,” said Burke.
For many college students, global learning includes a study abroad program that immerses them in a different culture. The panelists discussed the importance of integrating students’ valuable experiences with foreign cultures with the curriculum on campus.
“One of my students recently returned from abroad and it was clearly one of the most formative experiences of her life. My concern is whether she’s getting a chance to process it,” said Dawson. “As part of our curriculum revision, we’re hoping to give students good preparation before they go abroad and an opportunity to share their experiences when they come back.”
The panel also explored ideas about social responsibility, challenges in crossing boundaries, and the importance of good mentors.