Friday, August 24 was an exciting day at Rockford College. I have only been here since June of this year, but I have already developed a strong sense of connection to this vibrant community and to this amazing college. It was my pleasure as the new Dean of the College to address an overflow crowd of students, faculty, trustees, staff and community members at Friday’s President’s Opening Convocation.
As a famous headmaster opened his school with these paraphrased words, “To our new students welcome, to our older students welcome back.” Many will recognize that phrase from the Harry Potter movies and although this is not Hogwarts, we do feel that Rockford College is a magical place to get one of the finest liberal arts and sciences educations in the USA and beyond. The historical liberal arts had arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, grammar, logic and rhetoric.
We integrate most of these with the needs of the 21st century and work to ensure that students have the knowledge, values and skills to succeed in their first and final career. I am an example of what a good liberal arts education can do. In my first career, I was a fitness director. I have done research as a professor, in a hospital and for NASA, collegiate teaching, and now administration. The depth and breadth of a liberal arts and sciences education has provided me with the knowledge, values, and skills to be successful in each of my career areas.
In today’s world the buzz words from politicians to parents are outcomes and jobs. Rockford College makes an outcome promise that is embedded in its Learning Expectations for RC Graduates. You can find details of these expectations on our website.
Basically, our brand of liberal arts and sciences is based on developing knowledge, knowledge of individuals, the social world and the natural world. Knowledge is our base.
From there we go to Values for envisioning the world. Values set a framework, that we as citizens of America and the world, can apply our knowledge in the aesthetic, intellectual, professional and social realms of ourselves, as it applies to others, and the way we impact our society. We also extend those values in to the natural world where we are the caretakers of spaceship earth.
Helping to integrate knowledge and values into a whole are the skills that we will acquire that will lead us to success in our first and subsequent careers. We will acquire, improve and refine skills in communication; in analytical and critical thinking, in ethical decision-making, by being collaborative not just cooperative in our work, and the methods learned from science and other disciplines to solve complex issues in our natural and social worlds.
We are Regents and the future leaders and stewards of our world. Our liberal arts and science education extends from our general education through our major areas of studies.
Knowledge, Values and Skills are the venues that we express our strong general education to the specific knowledge of our chosen fields.
I invite everyone to reflect on their academic experiences and find the integration of knowledge, values and skills. I also invite everyone to look for opportunities to find the acquisition of knowledge, values and skills in your everyday worlds. If you look, you will find these outcomes in many places. For example we can see the aesthetic beauty in art, a theater performance, or experience it in a literature reading. I have seen the beauty the way data and observations fits a scientific theory and in the grace of the athlete doing things I can only dream of doing.
Life at Rockford College is life in the world. We urge our students to be active in the Jane Addams’ Center for Civic Engagement and engage with our international students or consider a short term or a semester abroad. Life is there for those who want to experience the full diversity it offers.
One of my English professors started our writing class with the assignment of writing our own obituary. He was trying to get us to see what we want to be and what we wanted to be remembered for by others. Mine can now read, “He came to be a Regent late in life, but not too late to continue his education and experiences.”
I will especially look forward to watching the incoming class of 2012 as they travel though many experiences – the good and the bad – while evolving to become one we can be proud to call a friend and a graduate of Rockford College.
Steven Siconolfi, Ph.D.
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College