The CORE at Work: Oglethorpe Students Present at International Conference

Rebekka Strom '13

During the high school scramble to find a college, I found myself drawn to Oglethorpe for three reasons: it looked like Hogwarts, it was obsessed with community service, and it offered the Core curriculum. The Core, which strives to enrich student experiences with a challenging, cross-disciplinary education, has led to some amazing opportunities for students. Recently, Rebekka Strom ’13 and Samantha Flynn ’13 were among only 40 students accepted to present their papers at the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) student conference at Shimer College in Chicago.

ACTC is an international, professional association that seeks to advance liberal arts education by developing and promoting liberal arts education programs (and other programs) which integrate core text courses with the most advanced developments in administration, curriculum, student support services, faculty support, and general education assessment and review.

The ACTC conference gave students the chance to share their papers, which reflected upon and integrated various Core texts, with a group of faculty members and fellow students. Rebekka was able to put her English degree to use in a formal environment, and “to see how Core transcends the classroom setting.” Similarly, Samantha was given the experience of  a “dry run at academia,” which is her ultimate career goal.

Samantha Flynn '13

“What really struck me during the conference was the outstanding quality of an Oglethorpe education,” enthused Samantha. “Other participants in the conference were from Great Books schools and top-tier university names, and yet Oglethorpe’s Core had prepared me to understand, discuss, and critique their papers on a wide variety of subjects. When people met me and asked where I was from, almost no one had heard of Oglethorpe, and yet, by the end of the conference, I had several participants inquire about the nature of Oglethorpe’s Core program because they were convinced it must be a Great Books school.”

“The (conference) solidified my choice in selecting and pursuing a liberal arts education,” added Rebekka. “I was able to interact with like-minded undergraduate students and their support faculty members about core texts and their relevance in 21st century higher education—from Aristotle and  Plato to Hobbes and Locke… it was an exciting experience to network with colleges and universities that strive to keep the liberal arts alive.”

Rebekka’s paper, “Remember the Ladies: Individuality, Community, and Equality of Early and Modern Women,” was written for her COR-302 class.

“In [class], we talk a lot about modernity,” she said. “I (looked at) the women of these time periods and contrasted them with what it means to be a modern working woman in 2013.”

Samantha’s essay, “Libido Dominandi: Fulfilling the Presence of the Absence of a Reality,” was written for Dr. Orme’s Human Nature and the Social Order class.

“(My topic) was something I saw in a lot of texts…’The Lust for Power,’ ‘The Will for Power… I tried to link all these (phrases) and make them part of the same dialogue.”

For anyone interested in a similar opportunity, Samantha had the following advice: “Take Core seriously… It was one of the main reasons I came to OU, and this is an example of Core paying off.”

Samantha was extremely thankful to have had this opportunity, and feels indebted to Dr. Knippenberg for sponsoring her and to Dr. Orme and Professor M. Smith for advising her on the content of her paper. Likewise, Rebekka expressed gratitude towards Dr. Knippenberg, Dr. Baube, and the entire Core Committee, as well as to her academic advisors Dr. Chandler and Dr. Hornback. Without their support, and without the Core program, Samantha and Rebekka could not have had this experience.


A Front Row Seat for Civil Rights Debates

Some time ago, an aide to Todd Gaziano, one of the eight members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, contacted me about serving on the Commission’s Georgia Advisory Committee. I couldn’t say no; the opportunity was too interesting.

Well, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had two opportunities to see just how interesting the position could be. In the spring, I attended a Georgia Advisory Committee meeting here in Atlanta. We vetted and ultimately approved a very tentative report on the civil rights implications of school discipline in the state. Whether the disparate racial impact we found is caused by discrimination is a question we couldn’t answer on the basis of the evidence we had. We had hard questions, but no easy answers.

Then, back in mid-July, Commissioner Gaziano’s aide contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to participate as a panelist in a briefing on the civil rights implications of state immigration laws in Birmingham. Not quite knowing what to expect, but being an agreeable guy, always ready to learn, I said “sure.”

That’s how I found myself with a front row seat for an event that made news all over the southeast. I even saw myself in a picture on the NBC News website.

Bob Miller / for NBC News

Don’t worry: I didn’t attract any attention, negative or positive, especially since my contribution to the day’s proceedings was to apply first principles (the consent of the governed, the rule of law, federalism, and separation of powers) to the vexed question of immigration policy. But my fellow panelists included one of the principal authors of all the controversial state immigration laws, state legislative leaders from Alabama and Georgia, and representatives of advocacy groups on both sides of the question.

And in the audience were demonstrators who, as the Commission chair told us, were exercising their First Amendment rights by interrupting the speakers with whom they disagreed.

It wasn’t exactly democratic deliberation at its finest, but, then, democratic deliberation rarely is. Everyone had the opportunity to speak. The demonstrators got the media attention they wanted. The news outlets got some dramatic footage. And the Commission—evidently deeply divided—saw its divisions replicated among the panelists and in the audience. Again, there were hard questions and no easy answers.

Dr. Joseph M. Knippenberg  is a Professor of Politics at Oglethorpe University.