Learning Liberal: A Look at SUNY Potsdam's Strong Liberal Arts Beginnings
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With an urgent call for undergraduate students to choose specific career fields at such a young age, it is important not to forget what kind of curriculum many of the SUNY institutions began with: liberal arts education. SUNY Potsdam, established in 1816, is known today as the first institution of higher learning in the SUNY system. SUNY Potsdam celebrates its Bicentennial year in 2016, and with that came my internship with the College Library and Archives. This was an interdisciplinary liberal arts endeavor in and of itself, crossing many fields of study, such as historical research, archives, and digital media. Potsdam College began integrating the liberal arts curriculum that we know today in the early 1970's, with many schools following in its footsteps. The term "liberal arts" presents a rather ambiguous meaning, sometimes referring to an academic degree program, and sometimes referring to a school of thought that encompasses areas of knowledge ranging from history, language arts, philosophy, and science, among others. From this internship, I have two projects that I am excited to offer for the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference, including an online exhibit and a film. My exhibit, "Learning Liberal: A Look at SUNY Potsdam's Strong Liberal Arts Beginnings" is comprised of archived material that begins to tell the story of the School of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Potsdam, first named the School of Liberal Studies, which was established in 1972. My 12-minute film, "Where Should I Begin?" is self-reflective in nature and was made as the culminating project for my internship with the College Library & Archives. The film explores how my seven-month internship with the Bicentennial Celebration Committee and the College Libraries & Archives at SUNY Potsdam reinforced my passion for a true liberal arts education and serves as a call for students to explore liberal studies as much as possible. "Where Should I Begin?" was screened at the first discussion of the year-long History and Future Conversation Series, which paid close attention to the School of Arts and Sciences at the College. Potsdam celebrates its bicentennial during the 2015-2016 academic year.