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Colgate professors create video about benefits of liberal arts education

By Barbara Brooks on June 5, 2014
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Colgate professors Spencer Kelly and Yukari Hirata have produced the first in what will be a new series of videos designed to communicate the broad societal benefits of a liberal arts education, as well as the particular ways Colgate students learn and grow.

This first episode of the Looking Through the Liberal Arts series addresses “How Learning a Language Transforms You.”

The story is told through Jake Whiton ’06, who has achieved a level of Japanese language proficiency that puts him in the top one percent of all non-native speakers. He began studying Japanese during his first year at Colgate and now lives in Nagano, Japan, where he teaches English.

“Learning a foreign language gives you a new and distant vantage point,” said Hirata, associate professor of Japanese. “This perspective alters how you see your own native language and culture, and that fundamentally changes how you see yourself. I believe that this sort of personal transformation is at the heart of a liberal arts education.”

Kelly, professor of psychology, predicts the video project will reach across the disciplines and yield a great body of compelling work.

“Although the content of the talks will vary by professor, they will all be united by a high-level theme, which is what all of us try to do (in some fashion or another) in a Colgate classroom: take students to some distant place — through space, time, culture or ideology — and get them to look back from that perspective to where they started.”

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