The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Review: Opportunity to connect outside classroom

Making a connection between the Brazilian art of capoeira, economic game theory and American composer, music theorist, writer and artist, John Cage is difficult.

The Cultural Connections series did just that by using a loose theme -- games in this case -- to guide three 10-minute presentations by University of Richmond faculty and staff on a subject of their choice.

The series began this semester after Boatwright Memorial Library staff members were inspired by "The Dr. T ProjecT" created by Shawkat Toorawa, a professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies at Cornell University. The staff members discovered the project - intentionally spelled with capital Ts - after it was profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education last March.

"The Dr. T projecT: a Cornell hiTchhiker's guide To CulTure" was adopted after Toowara jokingly proposed the idea of a class highlighting three portions of culture he felt worth sharing with his students, as the director of a first-year cultural center at the university.

"This is not a course," he said. "There's no sign-up, no attendance requirement, no homework and it's not prescriptive. It's simply an opportunity for students to encounter some things they might want to know about and explore further."

The Cultural Connections series is almost an exact blueprint of the Dr. T project. The only differences are that Richmond's series encompasses a theme for each session, and instead of one professor presenting, every session has a different lineup of faculty and staff.

Linda Fairtile, of the Parsons Music Library leads the program at 5 p.m. each Wednesday in the Boatwright computer classroom. Fairtile said the program's weekly themes emphasized the diversity of its topics.

Wednesday's theme was "games" and featured Alicia Diaz, professor of theatre and dance, demonstrating and talking about the Brazilian game/dance/martial art of capoeira, Shakun Mago, professor of economics, discussing game theory, and Steve Addiss, professor of art history, reading John Cage's poetry over Cage's music.

"Too many things start, stop, and they're over with," Addiss said. "If you take a class in biology or something, maybe it goes on and forms your life, but maybe it stops. I like the idea that a college education is to open doors and windows into all kinds of other possibilities that maybe you don't pick up right away, maybe you pick up on later in life.

"But there may be something that grabs you. And you think, 'Wow, I really want to explore this further.'"

After the presentations, the audience of usually 20 to 30 discuss the topics further, asks questions and then disperse. No homework, no sign-in sheets, just learning.

Although the 10-week series has concluded for this semester, next semester's schedule is in the works and will surely be just as thought-provoking.

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Contact reporter Chris McClintik at chris.mcclintick@richmond.edu.

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