Disciplines connect via new PLACE initiative
Linfield has started a new initiative named the Program for the Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement (PLACE) that has both students and faculty excited for all the new possibilities open to the college.
“PLACE is an initiative that tries to bring the Linfield curriculum to life and engage both students and faculty development with the liberal arts,” said Patrick Cottrell, assistant professor of political science.
The program is a collaborative effort of Linfield faculty with an overall purpose of enhancing student engagement and faculty development through the exploration of thematic connections among modes of thinking and inquiry.
Each year there will be a different theme for PLACE. This year’s is “Legacies of War.” Both students and faculty are allowed to suggest different theme ideas, and the curriculum committee will decide which to use for the year.
“[You can] think of this year’s theme being a thematic power strip that anybody who’s interested can plug into,” Cottrell said.
Both faculty and students are able to examine each year’s theme through different disciplines. The different themes will also each highlight, but not exclusively focus on, Linfield curriculum designations.
This year’s theme is highlighting Linfield’s creative studies (CS) and individuals, systems and societies (IS) curriculum designations.
Cottrell is teaching a seminar this semester, War, Politics and Society, that is being taught alongside an English course, War and Literature taught by David Sumner, associate professor of English, which best demonstrates using PLACE, alongside classes taught at Linfield.
“It’s a great platform for innovative learning,” Cottrell said.
Students, such as senior Collin Morris, who is a student fellow for PLACE and is also in Cottrell’s War, Literature and Society class, are able to get more engaged in material through a political and literary point of view. Morris also helped launch the website for PLACE and communicated with the Associated Students of Linfield College to provide support needed for the program.
“PLACE is the sort of a program that I wish I had when I transferred to Linfield as a sophomore,” Morris said in an email. “I think the idea of connecting the interdisciplinary nature of a unique liberal arts experience at Linfield through a common theme is brilliant.”
Students in these courses are required to complete activities, such as interview veterans, participate in panels, write reflection essays and do common readings in literature and political science.
Students from these classes are also traveling to Vietnam this January Term and will be able to interview Vietnam veterans there for their points of view on the war, allowing students to gain a better understanding of both perspectives of the Vietnam War.
The intent of PLACE is to broaden the sense of connections with students and the material to look at an event from different perspectives.
An example of this would be to look at an event from a political science perspective and research why a war happened, where it went wrong and what the consequences from it were politically, and from a literary perspective wonder how we know what the truth is or how characters in literary pieces demonstrate the truth of the war.
“You’re asking different sets of questions about a similar thing, which I really think not only piques intellectual curiosity but also positions students to be more innovative thinkers and to have deeper connections to the materials they are learning,” Cottrell said.
There is a great emphasis on citizenship through PLACE, which Cottrell feels is deeply intertwined with a liberal arts education. There is importance placed upon student awareness of being engaging in community at every level and having a devotion to the public good.
“I really hope PLACE provides a commonplace to discuss a theme that percolates from the bottom up and allows all of us to broaden our intellectual horizon and knowledge,” Cottrell said.
PLACE is able to bring many speakers to campus and allows faculty to integrate the theme into courses’ syllabi at Linfield. Because the events will be planned far in advance, it will also make it easier for faculty and students to attend events and integrate them into their curriculum.
“Each year [students] will be exposed to a common theme which will highlight two Linfield Curriculum’s,” Morris said. “After four years, that student will have had the opportunity to see guest speakers, take integrative seminars, partake in more service opportunities, and much more, all connected to a common theme. This will help students really take advantage of a liberal arts education.”
For example, Colloquium students will be able to attend PLACE events and relate them back to common readings, while other students will be able to generate a curiosity and depth for learning who those from other schools may not have.
“This initiative is only going to go as far as students and faculty take it,” Cottrell said. “It has enormous potential for growth, we can make it whatever we want it to be.”
For further information about PLACE and events or themes to come, check out the website online at www.linfield.edu/place.html. There is also an interactive “prezi” online that further explains PLACE and the benefits it has to offer.
“The prezi is pretty badass. It does a nice job of capturing a complex idea,” Cottrell said.
Samantha Sigler can be reached at