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October 26, 2011

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Showcase to highlight liberal arts college

RELATED POSTS Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts will hold its inaugural Homecoming for the Mind showcase Saturday, displaying the college to the public and showcasing some of its top projects and research.

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Homecoming for the Mind is the launch of what special assistant to the dean and the project coordinator for the event Penny Bennett said she hopes becomes an annual tradition at Cal Poly.

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In a college traditionally overshadowed by its more prominent counterparts such as the College of Engineering or the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Bennett said she wants to bring attention to the diversity of senior projects in the college and possibilities after graduation with a degree in liberal arts. “I think people don’t realize what we do,” she said. “To be honest, I didn’t realize what we do until we started putting this together. I’m like, ‘Wow, that student did that project? That’s so neat.’”

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The event is advertised as a colloquium — from the word “colloquial” meaning to talk together. There will be breaks between presentations that allow for audience members to interact with speakers and learn about what the college does and the opportunities it creates.

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“The breaks come in because we want people to talk,” Bennett said. “Go talk to the presenters, talk to the faculty, talk to the students, engage in the conversation of whatever they’re interested in.”

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One presenter will be television producer Brad Bessey, who began his college education at Cal Poly. He will give a keynote speech titled “It’s Your Life, Create it.”

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“I’m most excited to see (Bessey), only because I’ve met him and I’m expecting great things from him,” Bennett said. “He’s really a dynamic individual.”

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Bennett said she wants Bessey’s presentation, along with the multiple senior projects on display at the event, to help in creating a better known reputation for liberal arts at Cal Poly.

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“I think one of the things that we want to do is we want people to notice the College of Liberal Arts,” Bennett said. “Because historically, we’ve been less noticed than engineering or agriculture — (Cal Poly’s) kind of known for those areas. But our dean, she’s been really intentional about making sure everyone on this campus knows that liberal arts is an integral part of your education.” College of Liberal Arts dean Linda Halisky said the college is currently very major-oriented, in contrast to other colleges where students identify strongly with the college as a whole. “If you ask an engineering student what they are, they’ll say they’re an engineer,” Halisky said. ”If you ask an ag student what they are, they’ll say an aggie. (Liberal arts students will) say I’m an English, philosophy or history student, or whatever.” Halisky said major identification is not necessarily a bad thing, as it promotes diversity within the college, but she wants students and faculty to understand the interconnection of liberal arts and its importance to a university education.

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“Overall, faculty and students don’t get what the relationships on different parts of the campus can mean in terms of enrichment within our own college, and then how we can be part of the enrichment of the university of the whole,” she said. Halisky said Homecoming for the Mind is a good opportunity to create this sense of unity within the college. “We want to connect our departments to each other and become more visible as a college across the university,” she said.

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The College of Liberal Arts Ambassadors, a student group designed to serve as a liaison between liberal arts students and their college, will volunteer at the event. Political science senior Lauren Duffy is the president of that organization. Duffy said attendance will primarily consist of freshmen and their parents, since the event falls on the Saturday of Cal Poly’s Parents’ Weekend. This presents a unique opportunity, she said, for first year students to see what projects they can do in the College of Liberal Arts, and what they can look toward after graduation.

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“I feel like with liberal arts, it so often is like, ‘What are you going to do with your major?’” she said. “And we don’t answer that question enough for students, and I think this is going to be a good opportunity for this question to be answered for a lot of people.”

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Duffy said she also sees the event as a place for parents to be reassured of what their children are doing at Cal Poly. “It’s a good opportunity for the parents to come on campus and see what their students are doing and where their money’s going,” she said. Bennett said approximately 200 parents have confirmed their families will attend the event, based off invitations sent during the fall quarter. She said she does not, however, want to limit the event to just freshman students and their families. “We’re really hoping to draw people from the campus community and larger community to come, too,” she said.

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Homecoming for the Mind is free and open to the public. It begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the Alex and Fay Spanos Theater. TAGS: CLA, college of liberal arts, Lauren Duffy, Linda Halisky, parents' weekend, Penny Bennett, Sean McMinn, senior projects

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Sean McMinn is a journalism sophomore and Mustang Daily staff writer.

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Showcase to highlight liberal arts college