Trustees Success Story

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Succeeding in Life

Ever since I was asked to write about my insight on General Education at American University, I’ve been wondering, what is so important about the program that American University faculty so fervently admires? I went to visit Prof. Nadell, the professor for Ancient & Medieval Jewish Civilizations, who gave me interesting insight on why she believes students should be exposed to the liberal arts. In her own words, “It is impossible to be an informed citizen of the world if you don’t know liberal arts.”

As I watched “Talk to me”, a movie shown at the Ward auditorium Tuesday night, I realized just what Prof. Nadell was arguing. In order to understand the movie, you needed to know a little about the past. The movie is based on the life of Ralph Waldo “Petey” Geene Jr, an influential Radio DJ during the 60’s that created controversy amongst the community by highlighting race relations in a previously silent atmosphere. After Martin Luther King Jr’s death the troubled black community of DC was unstoppable, creating several riots and chaos, inspiring Greene to help them through their grief. If I had not known who Martin Luther King Jr. was, most of the movie would not have made sense. Not only was history involved, but because I had some knowledge about the effects of mass media on society, I was able to understand the effect his morning radio program had on the black community and how it helped calm the citizens down.

Then I started to think, if these classes are so important for our daily life, such as simply watching a movie, what does Prof. Nadell plan on doing so that her classes are memorable to her students? Her main approach is an interactive classroom, where students can have different ways of learning and therefore remember the information. Prof. Nadell arranges small discussion groups, which students have to attend at least twice, where a General Education faculty assistant is present and therefore gives the students a more comfortable atmosphere where they can have critical reflections on the readings of the week. She also invites speakers, exposing students to experts, and bringing different approaches and different ways of looking at sources to the class. Finally, by including picture slides during presentations and lectures, she is able to help visual learners grasp concepts easily and overall make students connect learned knowledge with images.

American University faculty wants us to be successful in life, not only successful in our major, which is why they stress General Education as much as they do. They therefore give us the necessary tools to function properly in life, to be knowledgeable instead of existing in ignorance, and to be able to appreciate things as simple as a movie in a much deeper way.