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Letters From the Dean

Check back here every Sunday for Dean Rifkin’s timely message to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences!

This Week -  Sept. 14, 2014

Dear Students:

It is my pleasure to write to you this week, while Dean Rifkin is in Kazakhstan recruiting students to come to TCNJ.

Recently, at a conference in Philadelphia, I attended a lecture by Christopher Nelson (President of a liberal arts college) on the topic of education.  I was moved by the lecture and I would like to share some of Mr. Nelson’s key ideas with you.  Mr. Nelson thinks that liberal education is not primarily about making a living; it is about making a life worth living.  He acknowledges that wealth can provide us with freedom from certain external constraints.  (But, while some measure of wealth may be necessary for a good life, it is never sufficient.) He thinks that the goal of education must be freedom from internal obstacles and limitations.  Mr. Nelson claims that when we study texts, traditions and ideas through deep reading, serious conversation, interpersonal interaction and close mentoring, we become knowers who possess love and enthusiasm for what is beautiful, excellent and profound.  He posits that students who take responsibility for their own education and actively explore the opportunities that are available to them at great schools (such as TCNJ!) become self-transformative learners: they become learners who have gained knowledge, learners who have questioned what they once uncritically thought they knew, and learners who, moving forward, are open to self-inquiry and self-examination.  These self-transformative learners free themselves from the internal limitations of ignorance, disinterest and blind inclination toward what is neither beautiful nor good.  These students graduate with an informed desire to shape their own lives in meaningful and deeply rewarding ways.

Now I have a few questions: Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Nelson? Why or why not (perhaps, this is something to discuss with a roommate, a peer, a mentor, or an instructor)?  If you want to actively explore the life of self-transformative learning, what is your next step?  Regarding steps, let me suggest attending at least one of this week’s events.  Go to a lecture or see a film, stay for Q&A, and then continue the conversation with other members of the fantastic learning community that is TCNJ!



John E. Sisko
Faculty Fellow in Humanities and Social Sciences
Professor of Philosophy
Coordinator of Classical Studies
Social Science Building, room 309


Sun., Sept. 14  4:00-6:00pm     Alumni Grove
Friends of Webster Dog and Cat Stress Relief Day. If you miss your dog or cat from home or wish you had a dog or cat from home, come to Alumni Grove at the appointed time and meet friendly, affectionate pets of faculty and staff members who are bringing them to campus precisely for you to enjoy them.  This event takes place every year in September and again at the end of classes in the spring semester.

Tues., Sept. 16   12:30-1:30pm   Library Auditorium
Constitution Day Lecture: “Ferguson and the Future of Civil Rights”
Dr. Omar Wasow, Department of Politics, Princeton University
This lecture is part of the Politics Forum series.

Tues., Sept. 16   12:30pm       Social Science Building room 230
Information session: Holocaust/Genocide Studies Maymester
Dr. Cynthia Paces and Dr. Mort Winston will share information about this Maymester’s study abroad program in Central Europe and Armenia

Wed., Sept. 17  2:00-2:30pm     Social Science Building room 130
Information Session: Study Abroad 101.Interesting in earning credit in another country? Curious about how to use your financial aid/scholarship award toward a study abroad program? Don’t know where to start your research? This weekly info session is for you! CGE staff and students present “how to study abroad” and answer your questions.
Sponsor: Center for Global Engagement

Wed., Sept. 17   2:30-3:00pm    Social Science Building 130
Study Abroad 401: A Survival Guide to Reverse Culture Shock
CGE Staff and CGE Peer Advisors will provide resources to help students adjust to campus life, maximize the study abroad experience in grad school applications and the job search, and communicate their study abroad experiences effectively in interviews and conversation.

Wed., Sept. 17  4:00 pm – 6:00 pm       Mildred and Ernest Mayo Concert Hall
Lecture and Performance: Pete Seeger and the Power of Song
Dr. Allan Winkler, Distinguished Professor of History,
Miami University, Ohio
This is the first event in the Exploring Economic Justice Series: a year-long series that aims to promote an interdisciplinary discussion of topics that intersect with or define core issues in economic justice. These include: race, gender, immigration, extreme poverty, education, urban policy, politics, philosophy, religion, literature, history, music and economics. The series will foster a dialogue, involving both the public and TCNJ community, about the realities of economic disparity, political action and the meaning of economic justice. Contributions from cultural and literary historians, musicians, philosophers, political scientists, economists, educators, activists, journalists, and filmmakers will both highlight important issues under the penumbra of economic justice and provide a broad forum for examining the meaning of justice and the role that this concept plays in a thriving pluralistic democracy.  More information will soon be made available at:

Wed., Sept. 17          5:00-7:00pm     Travers and Wolfe Lobbies
Wednesdays with CAPS Peer Educators: CAPS peers will provide helpful, informative, and engaging activities on the topic of Time & Stress Management

Thurs., Sept. 18        2pm     Library Auditorium
Lecture: Gender, Romance, & Chinese Masculinity: Discussion and reading with Susan Blumberg-Kason.
Susan Blumberg-Kason is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She received a Master’s degree in Government and Public Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her writings were included in the anthologies of Fifty-Fifty: New Hong Kong Writing and How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? Her work has appeared in an affiliate of the Chicago Sun Times, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and Chicago Parent magazine. Her memoir, Good Chinese Wife, which was published in 2014, has won critical acclaims. Q&A session and book signing will follow.

Thurs. Sept. 18 6:30pm  Education Building room 115
International Film Series: The Horses of Fukushima (Japanese Film)
Sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Cultures

Fri. Sept. 19   12:30-2:00pm    Education Building 115
Close Readings with Professors Jess Row, Mindi McMann, and Michael
Robertson (TCNJ, English)
“Super Sad True Love Story”
Education Building 115