January 12, 2012
On January 11, former Rollins College professor and provost Dan DeNicola spoke to a packed house of professors and administrators, many of whom were DeNicola’s colleagues before he left to become the provost of Gettysburg College in 1996. DeNicola focused his remarks on the tradition of liberal education and the emergence of the “New American College,” drawing many of his insights from his forthcoming book, titled Learning to Flourish: A Philosophical Exploration of Liberal Education.
“What are we exactly?” he asked the audience. Is Rollins a liberal arts college or a comprehensive university? To inform the audience’s reflections, DeNicola gave a brisk overview of the educational theory and practice supporting the concept of liberal education since classical times. “It’s the primary fount of intellectual energy. It’s aimed at understanding, preparing for and cultivating a flourishing life.”
The New American College (NAC), according to DeNicola, has emerged in the last 25 years. Citing Rollins as an example, he said that the NAC is not a classic liberal arts college nor is it a research university. “We’re not A or B but C. What has emerged is a new species,” he suggested. “It’s the best of both worlds.” Over its modern history, Rollins has added continuing education programs, graduate programs, and pre-professional programs to its traditional core of liberal arts disciplines. The challenge has been ensuring that the new programs continue to manifest the premises and principles of the liberal arts, which is at the heart of the Rollins educational experience.
If the NAC is a new type of college, how do we gauge its quality? “If this is a new species of dog, how do you tell the champions? What might mark excellence?” DeNicola offered that each component of the college be deemed excellent on its own and valued by the college. “You want to have a bouquet, not a bunch.”
Judging by the frequent nods of agreement, faculty and administrators in attendance enjoyed the discussion. “As Rollins moves into the future, it is important that we understand who we are, how best to build upon our unique strengths and how to set markers of excellence. I think Dan has helped us get a better sense of ourselves and our possibilities,” Professor Hoyt Edge shared.
Before taking a handful of questions from the audience, DeNicola concluded with this sage advice: “You can’t reduce yourself to a type,” he said. “ You have to find within yourself where true greatness lies.
By Kristen Manieri