Over my nearly three years at Simpson College, expert forum speakers in religion, publishing, politics, science and education have come to campus. Through all the opportunities Simpson Forum has provided, I unfortunately have not felt compelled to attend the majority.
Because of the niche topics many forum speakers focus on, I have found it hard to be overly excited or engaged with forum events more often than not. Many students have forms of affirmation-seeking attitudes, meaning we seek out information affirming what we already believe, or in this case, care about. This objective is not limited to students by any means, but the point is valid in regards to those studying in a liberal arts environment.
While I have enjoyed the majority of the forums I have attended, including Amy-Jill Levine’s 2013 Matthew Simpson lecture focused on New Testament and Jewish studies, it has been hard to find those engaging topics amidst the wide variety of forum opportunities.
Maybe the issue is that I have not taken the time or effort to “broaden my horizons” by utilizing the forum events brought to our campus, though I believe that is not the case. I think the issue is found in the topics of the lectures themselves.
I can say I have stepped out of my comfort zone of study when it comes to forum events; I am not a political science student but I enjoyed Ben Wizner’s Constitution Day lecture about the mass surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the future of democracy.
Liberal arts students are exposed to a vast array of information whether it comes in the classroom or from an outside source, such as the Simpson Forum events. It is not enough to stick to an area of study or two; with such opportunities to learn and expand knowledge, shouldn’t all students take advantage?
I would love to attend more forum events and understand the content of the events as well as how they can apply to more aspects of students’ lives. The problem is these events tend to be so refined the average student focusing in a different field tends to get lost in the shuffle of jargon and narrow concepts of these events.
Wizner and Levine’s lectures provided insight into topics I found to be both interesting and applicable to areas other than just academics. The point behind the Simpson Forum is to educate students about and immerse them in different topics besides their regular course work. In order to effectively do so and reach the greatest audience, the forums need to cast their net wider and broaden the topics covered.