Letter From the Dean, September 2020

Dear Families,

As I told the undergraduates in my term opening message earlier this week, we have turned a corner. Whether they are enrolled from home, from other locations nationally and internationally, or from here on campus, their job now is to learn. I reminded them, in part:

Each one of you applied to Dartmouth for the purpose of getting a world class liberal arts education. As many of you learned in your orientation, whether it was just last week or three years ago, the term Liberal Arts stems all the way back to Aristotle and essentially means, "the liberating arts."

And while it may seem like the days of needing to be liberated are long past, I think it's fair to say that we, as citizens of a world plagued by social unrest and climate challenges, need the liberal arts more than ever.

Because a liberal arts education provides you with knowledge that will allow you to flourish as free citizens. It also has the potential to free your mind from prejudice, from narrow thinking, and from no thinking at all.

Moreover, your liberal arts education will enlarge your mind and your understanding of the world through intellectual engagement. Deep intellectual engagement develops the ability to appreciate the contributions of people and civilizations that came before, and creates a context that helps us make sense of the world we live in now.

A liberal arts education also supports the free exchange of ideas. You should expect to encounter--and engage--with people whose views challenge things you hold dearly. And that's perfectly okay, because a liberal arts education will also help you navigate those different perspectives and to engage with them in productive ways relying on knowledge, logic, and fact.

The liberal arts also open your mind to the wonder of paradoxes, and free you from the all too present dangers of over- simplifications, falsehoods, and stereotypes.

.......In the face of so many challenges and distractions this year, please remember why it is that you're here, and that now more than ever, the world needs you.

We know that all of you have been facing many challenges and distractions over the last six months as well. As we head into the new fall season and the new academic year, we hope that you, too, have opportunities to turn the page in ways that are reinvigorating and fulfilling.

All my best,

Kathryn Lively
Professor of Sociology
Dean of the College