For the love of liberal arts

A wise professor (Dr. Gary Warrick) once told me that obtaining a liberal arts education from Laurier was one of the best things I could do for myself. He explained that with the knowledge involved in liberal arts comes the power to change the city of Brantford, and beyond that, the world. His point was not clear to me until I looked at the bigger picture of what a liberal arts education really meant, beyond the literature and philosophy classes that are normally associated with it.

The city of Brantford, prior to the construction of Laurier, was known as a manufacturing city with little education and some of the worst literacy rates in Canada. After the death of Massey Ferguson, a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, Brantford’s unemployment rate increased.

However, Brantford City Council’s Ward 5 member Marguerite Ceschi-Smith was in Brantford to witness groups that paired with NDP and other parties to lobby for a post-secondary institution.  Brantford’s Sanderson Center reopened and met with the council and Laurier, and the university was proposed to be built downtown in the various empty buildings.

Ceschi-Smith obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia in the 70s, and at that time she was in an experimental liberal arts program, which has now become a standard class. She explains that an important theme in their small program was to view the world with two ways of knowing, such as yin versus yang, or science versus art.

“All the way through my life [has] always [been] those two ways of knowing: concrete versus abstract,” she said. “We’re a planet now, we’re not Ontario or Brantford.”

By engaging in a liberal arts education from Laurier Brantford, doors of opportunity will open for you all around the world. With this education, you will gain more knowledge and more background that can be used to make decisions, which is an ever-increasing skill needed to solve many problems worldwide.

Ceschi-Smith admits that Brantford is still very challenged after having been a manufacturing city for so long. It is clear that it is a hindrance for Brantford to adapt to changing technologies and different ways of doing things.

According to Ceschi-Smith, the aspiration of enrollment in university was not a part of the Brantford psyche, as many potential students’ parents had not had any higher education. Although Brantford is still dealing with unemployment, the three universities and two colleges now located in the city are helping to diversify things, she states.

During the course I had with Gary Warrick, he stated that it was my responsibility (and every other student in a liberal arts program) to take our education and change the world with it. The fact is that we are the next generation and our shoulders are being burdened with problems that need solving. He believes that if university was an option for you, seize it and take all you can from it.

Ceschi-Smith believes that the most important thing that Laurier students can do for Brantford is to keep on learning.

“For today’s world, you need to forget about the career for life, because it doesn’t exist,” she says,  “Never forget what one person can do – they can change the world, [and] a university education can provide you with the tools to do that.”

In today’s world, an office job is no longer fulfilling. It is important to follow your passion, according to Ceschi-Smith. Harness the skills that literature and philosophy lay out for you but use them to make great changes around the world.

Brantford used to have one of the lowest literacy rates in Canada, but the addition of a university sparked new hope in the city and inspired its residents to learn.

This revitalization of the desire to educate should inspire new students, current students, and graduates of Laurier Brantford to be passionate and involved in their studies, to receive the best education they can, and not only change the birthplace of their knowledge, the city of Brantford, but the world as well.

What I understood from Warrick’s speech was that a liberal arts education can take us on an endless number of paths around the world, experiencing different cultures and ways of thinking. Enjoy where your liberal arts education takes you. It may not be exactly where you had planned, but it will certainly produce a reinvigorated generation of learners ready to change the world.

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