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Spotlight on the Liberal Arts

Spotlight on the Liberal Arts

Date: Oct 6, 2016

Last spring the Mount St. Mary’s faculty approved a smaller core curriculum, but one that is also more integrated. The innovative and ambitious plan carefully sequences courses so that students build knowledge from semester to semester in a logical, systematic way but also make connections across courses taken during the same semester.  Most students will complete the core by the end of their junior year so they can concentrate on majors’ courses and career planning during their final year.  The Theology Department is excited to contribute with three new courses, Belief in the Modern World, Encountering Christ and Ethics and the Human Good.

The first theology course, Belief in the Modern World, introduces students to the challenges of thinking about questions of belief in the context of today’s secular and pluralist world, especially in the American context. At a fundamental level, the course helps students grasp the relationship of faith and reason, perhaps the central task of a Catholic university. It builds directly on the challenges of epistemology that are explored in the modern philosophy course, but it approaches those questions more existentially and socio-culturally. Topics to be addressed include how we are able to speak about God, what it means to have faith, how to deal with the problem of evil, and how to connect personal belief with the Church, sacraments, and social issues. The course especially intersects with the new America and the World course, taken during the same semester, by helping students understand how Catholic theology differs from the dominant cultural forms of religious belief: privatized individualism and fundamentalism.

The second theology course, Encountering Christ, provides an introduction to the sources and methods of Christian theology, considering the revealed nature and activity of God and the history of human relationships with God.  The main themes include Scripture, Jesus, Church, Sacraments, and the moral life. This course connects laterally with the Modernity courses which explore suffering in the modern world and secular culture. 

The third theology course, Ethics and the Human Good, has a theology and a philosophy version with a common approach. The theology version situates the moral life and contemporary issues within the Catholic theological tradition. The course requires interdisciplinary work, particularly in relation to each student’s major and/or prospective career. As part of the core curriculum, the theology version includes seminal works in the philosophical tradition, from authors like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. This offering compliments Global Encounters courses, which examine moral issues from a variety of cultural and geographical settings.

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Peter Dorsey, said, “The Mount has always placed great emphasis on giving our students common educational experiences, and the new core builds upon this tradition.  To make this happen, the theology department really stepped up to the plate, discovering new ways to enrich the academic journeys of all our students.” 

Chair of the Theology Department, Fr. James Donohue, C.R., adds, “Each of the theology courses helps us fulfill the undergraduate mission ‘to graduate men and women who cultivate a mature spiritual life . . .  who respect the dignity of other persons, and who see and seek to resolve the problems facing humanity.’ Examining belief in the world today, learning more about the Bible and Jesus, and pondering the ethical implications of a life well lived are foundational blocks that will help us fulfill the exciting mission of preparing Mount graduates for the Church and the world.”

The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures just expanded its offerings to include Mandarin Mandarin_InstructorChinese.  Department Chair, Dr. Marco Roman, welcomes Professor Ssu-Ting Liao, who is living on campus and is very excited to teach Mount students about this rich Asian language.

Professor Ssu-Ting Liao is originally from Taiwan where she was a full-time middle school teacher. During 2012-2013 she was an exchange student at Notre Dame of Maryland University. While there, she tutored several students in Chinese, an experience that convinced her to make a career change and led her to ALLEX, a program that helps American universities institute Eastern Asian language courses.  She graduated with a B.A. in English Language, Literature, and Linguistics in 2014 from Providence University, one of the two major Catholic universities in Taiwan, and she received her teacher’s certification from the Ministry of Education in April 2015.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, Taiwan, and one of the official languages of Singapore.  It is the most widely spoken language in the world. At the Mount Professor Ssu-Ting Liao will be teaching one beginner-level Chinese course in the fall semester while also taking courses to receive her Master of Arts in Teaching.  She said, “My Chinese 101 is designed for students with no previous background in Mandarin. Also, I teach mostly in Chinese.  A 95% whole-Chinese environment helps improve my students' listening and speaking skills. Writing will be taught after students have a solid knowledge of speaking and listening.”

Professor Ssu-Ting Liao says she designs different contextualized exercises for each class because “learning becomes fun when students get chances to perform greetings and self-introductions. Students also enjoy identifying people and items, ordering at a restaurant, and talking about a daily schedule.” She makes it clear that she wants her students to speak the language and know how to present themselves in a way that a Chinese person would find comfortable. She observed, “Chinese 101 helps students develop skills in Mandarin Chinese to communicate across ethnic, cultural, and ideological boundaries and to develop an understanding of Chinese interpersonal, behavioral, and cultural thought patterns.”

The College of Liberal Arts is happy to welcome Professor Ssu-Ting Liao to our University and to the Department of Foreign Languages! 

This summer I had an incredible opportunity to work in Nepal as a photojournalist with Mountain Heart Josh_McCowanNepal (MHN), a Nepali Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that is dedicated to bringing free healthcare to remote mountain villages in the Himalayas. After the earthquake in 2015, Aban Gautam founded Mountain Heart Nepal, and in only one year he had helped 15,000 people and distributed several hundred pounds of non-medical aid. He was recognized by the United Nations and received UN funding to charter helicopters so that MHN could reach inaccessible mountain villages that were suffering from the earthquake.

Needless to say, when I noticed that Mountain Heart Nepal was looking for an English-speaking photojournalist, I jumped at the chance. I quickly contacted the organization, and after sending several emails back and forth with the NGO, I was offered the position.  I soon realized, however, that I needed help getting there. For this I went to Fr. Jim Donohue and the College of Liberal Arts. I had my proposal ready with itemized costs. After meeting with Fr. Donohue, I received an email explaining that my airline and rent costs would be covered by the Dean’s Fund for Excellence through the College of Liberal Arts.

When I arrived in Nepal, it did not take long for me to establish a routine.  On the weekdays I was a teacher at a Nepali secondary school, where I would teach English and engage the students in conversations during free time. It was especially rewarding playing soccer with the students at the end of the school day. On the weekends, I would work in the mountains with Aban and his team of doctors from MHN, documenting their medical camps and earthquake-relief efforts. Being able to see everyday life in one of the poorest countries in Asia was an eye-opening experience.

Without support from the College of Liberal Arts, I would have been unable to take part in this life-changing journey. I received valuable field experience working with a grassroots NGO in a challenging environment. I hope to use all the experience gained from this incredible opportunity to further work with non-profit NGOs and ultimately the Peace Corps. Mount St. Mary’s investment in my education is yet another example of this University’s ongoing commitment to use the liberal arts to develop students, so that they become well-rounded members of a global society.  

Greetings from the College of Liberal Arts!  As many of you know, I began work in the Dean’s office on July Pete_Dorsey1 and hope to build on the strong foundation laid by Deans Josh Hochschild and Fr. Jim Donohue. I am grateful for the generous support of the Mount community.  Always committed to the good of the Mount, CLA faculty members have been renewed and re-energized by President Trainor’s arrival and by the revision and implementation of numerous initiatives, all designed to engage our students more fully.  I am fortunate to be teaching in our First-Year Symposium program, led by History professor Dr. Greg Murry, and am hearing about and observing great things from the entering Class of 2020!  

There are so many things going on that I’m finding it difficult to decide what to include in this brief greeting.  Once again this past summer, the Mount sent several students to Cambridge University in England, and five of the six young scholars, Anne O’Neill, Kayla Morrow, Brigid Flay, Jessica Huhn and Samantha Solis, are from the College of Liberal Arts.  In the spring, Dr. Paige Hochschild guided 16 students through a stimulating semester in Florence.  In addition to the two summer study-abroad trips you’ll read about in this newsletter, Dr. Diana Rodriguez-Lozano led students on a very successful study-abroad and service trip to Costa Rica.  With singular energy and on their own initiative, English and Music major Bari Boyd and English and History major Kara Van Dyke founded a new campus publication, Moorings, and handsomely produced its first issue.  This new journal nicely compliments the existing theology and philosophy journal, Tolle Lege, by publishing the best student essays from our other humanities disciplines.    

Our current students and recent graduates are applying their Mount Spirit to the greater good!  In this issue you’ll hear from International Studies major Josh McCowen, who spent the summer in Nepal, teaching and working as a photojournalist.  You’ll also learn about the good work of Katie Price, a 2015 English major, and Sarah George, a 2012 Philosophy and English major.

Working with faculty members from the Philosophy and Political Science Departments as well as the Bolte School of Business, Dr. Amanda Beal recently designed a new Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major.  This interdisciplinary major has produced many influential leaders in Europe, and the Mount is in the vanguard of bringing it to the U.S.  Amanda has also been researching and applying for grants to fund a summer PPE institute that will bring promising high school students to campus. 

I wish I had more space to tout the many achievements of our distinguished CLA faculty!  I’ll content myself with selected highlights.  Drs. Maureen Oakley from Political Science, Michelle Patterson from History, and David Cloutier from Theology published scholarly books.  Drs. Susann Samples, Sarah Scott, Dave Wehner, and Teresa Rupp have returned from very productive sabbaticals, and Drs. Christine Blackshaw and Tom Bligh begin sabbaticals this semester.  In his realm of creative writing, Dr. Bligh received the Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, and Lighted Corners, the student literary magazine he advises, received the Gold Circle Award from Columbia Scholastic Press.  Sr. Anne Higgins, D.C., published Life Lists, her eighth volume of poetry.  

After serving almost ten years as the Mount’s chief academic officer, Dr. David Rehm was promoted to University Professor and returns to the Philosophy Department and the classroom.  Theology Department Chair, Fr. Jim Donohue, received the endowed Knott Professorship for Theology, and Dr. Josh Hochschild received the Kline Professorship in Philosophy.  In July, Professor Andrew Rosenfeld, Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, prepared and conducted performances of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte while serving as musical director for the International Opera Project in Berlin.  Dr. Steven White, History Department Chair, was invited to serve as a judge for the Marraro Prizes, awarded each year for the best American monographs in the field of Italian history.  University Professor Carol Hinds received the 2016 McElroy Award for her service to Catholic education, and Dr. Michael Towle, Chair of the Political Science Department, contributed to U.S. News and World Report’s “Debate Club” about the presidential election.  The list goes on! 

Clare Tauriello, the director of Career Services, is working to establish a number of “Career Pathways” to connect students with alumni in specific professional fields, and she’s anxious to build pathways for CLA students specifically.  Please contact one of us if you believe you can help with this important initiative.

One of my goals as dean is to highlight the abundant talents of our Visual and Performing Arts’ students and faculty.  Please help me by coming back to campus to appreciate the fantastic work Dr. Kurt Blaugher does with Mount Theater, as he directs Ellen McLaughlin’s retelling of the classic tale of the House of Atreus, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Thursday through Saturday, November 17-19 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 2:00 p.m.

Thanks for your interest in the College of Liberal Arts.  Please let me know if I can provide more information about our students, faculty, and programs.  Mount pride—wear it! 


Pete Dorsey 

Sarah George 12’ B.A. in Philosophy & English Minor

After graduation, Sarah worked as a Staff Assistant in Washington D.C. for the United States Conference of Sarah_GeorgeCatholic Bishops in the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. She spent 2014 as a Catholic Volunteer Network AmeriCorps worker in Kentucky.  With the help of Dr. Christopher Anadale of the Philosophy Department, she recently founded and became Executive Director of Emmaus Farm Inc., located in Lewis County, which serves as a spiritual retreat for high school and college volunteers and a base for their service. Visit their website & social media pages to learn more about Sarah’s work.                


Andy Shaw 07’ B.A. in Theatre/Music/English

Andy has been working as an actor, designer, and technician in the Philadelphia area since receiving his Andy_ShawMasters in Theatre from Villanova University in 2010. He currently works full-time as a Production Manager for Act II Playhouse in Ambler, PA, and as actor in their Theatre for Young Audiences series. He’s worked as an actor at Montgomery Theater, Quince Productions, and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman; as a lighting designer for the Upper Merion Consortium for the Arts, Gwynedd-Mercy High School, and Beacon Theatre Productions; and as a technical director for The Masque of LaSalle University and the Gwynedd-Mercy High School Performing Arts Center. Visit the Act II Playhouse website to learn more!


Katie Price 15’ BA in English & Business and Education Minor

Katie is in her second year of Teach for America as a humanities teacher at Marion Academy, an alternative Katie_Pricecharter program in Indianapolis. She works at their Pride Academy site in the Resource Treatment Facility that serves youth who have experienced some kind of trauma. She gives students who are not being served by the traditional educational system another path to earn their high school diploma. She recently completed a fund-raising initiative to assemble a book collection and purchase equipment to enhance her students’ reading skills. She says the Mount opened her eyes to “servant leadership and how important it is to be a leader who is always at the service of those around them.” 

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