October 20, 2019
‘Big questions’ surface at honors program symposium
By Nick Wesman ’20G
How can a person’s conscience manifest itself in the public sphere? That was the topic discussed at the recent Liberal Arts Honors 2019 Symposium held in the Ruane Center for the Humanities.
Approximately 75 people attended the symposium, which was sponsored by the Liberal Arts Honors Program. Three guests representing diverse academic disciplines and backgrounds spoke to the event’s theme, “Conscience in the Public Life.” The addresses focused on how conscience influences a person’s political, spiritual, and vocational decisions and life.
Guest speakers for the day-long seminar were Bernard Reginster, professor of philosophy at Brown University; Rev. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., the 2019-20 Rev. Robert J. Randall Distinguished Professor in Christian Culture at Providence College and professor of history at the University of Notre Dame; and retired U.S. Army Col. Lisa M. (Thibault) Schenck ’83 & ’18Hon., associate dean for academic affairs and director of the National Security Law program at George Washington University.
“We had three very different kinds of experts talking about a common topic — conscience — in the spirit of the interdisciplinary honors courses,” said Dr. Stephen J. Lynch, professor of English and director of the honors program.
“We looked for a topic that is broad, that is of interest to a wide range of people, and that has strong contemporary relevance,” he added.
Honors program student Sean Gray ’21 (Lincoln, R.I.) appreciated the thematic selection that tied the day’s ideas together.
“Like any Providence College student, I’ve grappled with the ‘big questions’ of right and wrong, of conscience and duty, within the classroom during DWC (Development of Western Civilization) seminar,” he said. “Each presenter demonstrated how these ‘big questions’ play out in the real world.”
Gray was particularly impacted by Schenck, who referenced her PC liberal arts experience in her address.
“Judge Schenck spoke about how her Providence College liberal arts education helped her develop her own conscience and how that education has guided her through her personal life and professional career. I found the knowledge that lessons learned within the honors DWC classroom will remain with me incredibly gratifying,” he added.
Ultimately, the honors program intends for the symposium to both challenge ideas and reinforce lessons taken from liberal arts courses. The symposium, which the honors program hosts every three years, was first held in 2016. Alumni supporters chose to establish the event to amplify the mission and goals of the program.
“A few years ago, members of the (honors program) Alumni Leadership Council and some faculty did research on the best practices among honors programs in the country,” Lynch explained.
“We found that we already do most of those best practices, but we found we did not do some kind of conference or symposium organized by the program on a regular basis.”
The symposium also served as an opportunity to present the annual Dr. Rodney K. Delasanta ’53 and Rev. Paul van K. Thomson awards. The late Dr. Delasanta and the late Rev. Thomson were honors program directors.
The Delasanta Award, established in 2008, recognizes the first-year student who writes the best student essay in honors DWC. The Thomson Award is given to the student who has demonstrated consistently excellent work throughout their two-year DWC course work.
The Delasanta Award was presented to Madison Palmieri ’22 (Barrington, R.I.), an English and history double-major. Gray, who is a history major, received the Thomson Award.