PLACE A sense of It was the ragged shirt of a little boy that spoke most clearly to Beth Turner ’13. A political science class helped Turner understand the politics surrounding the Vietnam War. But it took an English class – and a young boy’s garment – to show her the humanity. Winter 2014 l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e - 7 A senior at Linfield College, Turner did not set out to study war, but she ended up considering it from a variety of perspectives – taking a combined political science and English class, attending lectures and a panel, and finally traveling to Southeast Asia for a January Term course. Her layered experience was more than chance. Over the course of a year, a common thread connected Linfield events, speakers, exhibits, classes and conversations that led to her understanding of war and citizenship. Now in its second year, PLACE (Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement) continues to provide a framework for meaningful conversation and exploration of issues across the disciplines. “While the political aspects of my classes gave me the tools to analyze foreign policy, the literature portion ensured that my classmates and I did not lose sight of soldiers’ and civilians’ individual experiences,” said Turner, now an English teacher in Japan. The January Term course deepened her connection to the human experience of war, as she and eight other students listened to North Vietnamese veterans recount their lives as soldiers, and visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the S-21 Prison Museum, legacies of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Eyeing memorial displays of photographs, bones and scraps of clothing, Turner finally saw the victims as people. “The small, ragged, striped shirt in the glass case was worn by a little boy who loved to run around and play sports with his friends before the Khmer Rouge shattered his life,” said Turner. “I realized that countless individuals, people like you or me, were massacred. This realization of the true human cost of war and conflict is something that I’m still struggling to process.” PLACE, often described as a coral reef for intellectual life or a power strip that faculty and students can plug in to, is a campus-wide program that takes a singular issue and examines it from multiple disciplines. This year’s theme, Legacies of War, which is continuing from the kickoff year, promotes discussion about the causes, consequences and legacies of war from a variety of perspectives and disciplines – science, art, theatre, music, literature, poetry, sociology, history, politics and others. Because classes and events reinforce and build upon each other, students make richer connections than they could through the lens of only one discipline. Targeting multidisciplinary discussion and civic engagement, PLACE is at the heart of a liberal arts education, say faculty advocates including Patrick Cottrell, assistant professor of political science, who directs the pilot phase of the program. David Sumner, associate professor of English, pictured here with students in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and Patrick Cottrell, assistant professor of political science, taught their courses, focused on war, together in the fall then collaborated on a January Term course to Southeast Asia. The integrated class structure benefitted students and faculty alike, as scholars and citizens. “That was one of the most integrated teaching-learning experiences I’ve had in my college career,” said Sumner.
2014 Winter Linfield Magazine
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