College of Arts and Humanities

Dean’s Corner: March 2024


Our Four Pillars, Part Four: Experience

Dear Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,

Back in October of last year, I introduced the idea that our new College of Arts and Humanities will build its programs around four pillars. In the October column, I discussed the first of these: “writing.” In the past two months, I introduced two more: “pre-law” and “ethics.”

Our fourth pillar is “experience,” as in “No. 1 Student Experience.”

Experience Fulfillment

Clemson Elevate, the University’s latest and most ambitious strategic plan unveiled just last year, announces No. 1 Student Experience as its first priority. “Experience” is a value-neutral term that requires an adjective to gain contour. We can have good experiences and bad ones, after all.

But what I am thinking of, in terms of our College’s contribution to this category, is better described more evocatively. A word like “fulfillment” comes to mind. Our College offers a rich set of experiences which, students tell me, have been deeply meaningful and satisfying, enriching their time at Clemson in unexpected ways. This holds true both for students majoring in our College’s programs and those who interact only through service courses or extracurriculars.

Through the Arts

The Department of Performing Arts comes to mind above all in its ability to deliver fulfillment. Students flock to our many vocal ensembles – CU Singers, Tigerroar, and above all Cantorei. Ever since I arrived in 2020, I have visited a Cantorei rehearsal once a semester and inevitably end up talking to students after practice is over. Many of them major in fields outside CAH, and yet tell me that making music with their peers on a regular basis has been the anchor of their time at Clemson, the thing that kept them on track and assured their overall well-being. The same is true for Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble and, of course, Tiger Band.

Clemson Players is no different. They, too, welcome non-majors, and some of their best performers have come from other colleges. Earlier this month, they celebrated their 60th anniversary. Alumni, representing every decade since the 1970s, traveled from as far away as California to attend the party. A series of students – some of them non-majors – got up and spoke about their experiences. It was moving to hear them gush about their love of the collaboration with fellow students and faculty to bring a dramatic work of art to an audience.

Through the Humanities

But this sense of fulfillment is not limited to Performing Arts. Our first-ever Rhodes Scholar, Louise Franke, was a biochemistry major. But she was also a philosophy minor. In an interview, she describes reading Nietzsche which, she said, “changed my life” and, she continued: “What I remember more, however, was reading it and thinking that I simply could not, not study philosophy.” And when she went to Oxford, it was indeed to study philosophy!

Students have had similar experiences of revelation and transformation reading and discussing literature in English classes and studying film in World Cinema. This is what I mean by fulfillment. The arts and humanities don’t just feed the brain. They nourish the heart and elevate the soul.

Go Tigers!

Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Arts and Humanities

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