|College Supporters Provide High-Impact, Exceptional Learning Opportunities for Students
Two Lebanon Valley College students recently received awards at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy for their outstanding research papers. The papers were developed from a unique course offered this academic year, “A Symposium on a Living Philsopher,” in which students studied the work of French philosopher Catherine Malabou.
Funded by the The Edward H. Arnold and Jeanne Donlevy Arnold Program for Experiential Education, the course was offered over a span of two consecutive semesters and used an exceptional team-teaching model that involved three instructors. Dr. Jeff Robbins, chair of religion and philosophy along with Dr. Bob Valgenti and Dr. Noelle Vahanian, associate professors of philosophy, co-taught the course.
The instructors – and the students – said that without the help of the College’s donors, these rare classroom experiences and conference attendances would not have been possible.
“We had the privilege of three different perspectives on Malabou’s work to supplement our own research. Each professor brought their specific expertise and insight to class discussions and writing conferences,” said junior Ashley Ferrari, whose paper, “Unchaining Our Brain: The Prospect of a Plastic Political Subjectivity,” won a third place award.
“The co-teaching model was unique. Whenever I felt like I didn't understand one teacher, oftentimes the other could fill in the blanks,” said junior Dylan Matusek, whose paper, “Indestructible: Plasticity, Historicity, and Identity,” earned him a first place award at the conference.
In April, Catherine Malabou, the world renowned and contemporary philosopher whose work was used as the basis of the class, was invited to campus to interact with students and provide feedback.
“The Arnold Grant provided an opportunity for us to create a unique learning environment that simulated what true philosophical research looked like. Without the funding, there is no way we could have attracted a philosopher of world significance such as Malabou,” said Robbins.
The course lured some of the College’s best students, spanning a variety of majors. They were able to develop an expertise in Malabou’s work, a mastery of the material, and a sense of confidence.
“The students were able to stand and speak confidently —and to challenge Malabou about her work. I’ve never seen that from LVC students before,” Robbins said.
Both the students and the instructors of the course value the support they gained through the Arnold Grant.
“I am ever-grateful for these donations and the transformational educational experiences they have subsequently provided me,” Ferrari said.
“I know that donors are interested in the growth of students and the community. This class definitely worked toward that end. I love everyone I've met in this class, feel like I have made great friends, and contributed to the community through my research,” Matusek said.
“When donors contribute to LVC’s academic programming, the product is that students have the opportunity to compete on a national stage and distinguish themselves,” Robbins said.
All of the papers produced by the students in the course will be published and archived in the College’s library.