Our fifth issue of the School of Liberal Arts Magazine is organized around the concept of commitment. In a sense, the theme builds on that of our previous issue, which explored the notion of responsibility. Yet the words travel along separate vectors and, in turn, evoke different resonances. So, this issue is meant to complement, rather than supplement, the fall number.
The pieces you’ll encounter here come from a wide range of places, both in terms of the academic disciplines of our contributors and the forms of commitment they explore. We framed this issue around three areas that reflect some of our own commitments: to anti-racism, to the environment, and to the liberal arts more broadly. We feature senior scholars reflecting on the commitments that have directed their academic careers and some of the newest members of our faculty, as they bring the next generation of ideas, strategies, and passions to their teaching and research.
Commitment itself is an evocative word, suggesting both an obligation or pledge and a steadfastness of purpose. Scholars and university teachers are known for both senses of the word, as they dedicate themselves to projects and endeavors over the long term and are driven by a devotion to the values that drew them to their field of inquiry. Knowledge of the distant past or the complex present does not come easily and without toil. And during challenging times—such as those that have marked the past year and more—our commitments have been tested deeply and frequently. But they have also guided us.
As I write these words, it is a year since Covid-19 turned our world upside down. By the time this magazine is in your hands or on your screens, we will be marking the second time that many of our cherished traditions have been disrupted. It is therefore timely to take this index of that which fuels the profound energies and talents of the members of our Liberal Arts community in the work they do. For those commitments will surely outlast the crises of the present.
Dean & Professor of English
School of Liberal Arts