— Nandini Ranganathan, Department Chair
The Liberal Arts curriculum enriches students lives through impassioned, rigorous, and culturally-relevant coursework that inspires curiosity and lays a foundation for continuing intellectual and creative pursuits.
A student in Liberal Arts learns to synthesize strands of knowledge in a cohesive, elegant manner and to frame and articulate questions and complex ideas. With encouragement from faculty members, students welcome creative and intellectual challenges, learn to express their vision in a compassionate and rigorous manner, and come to participate in the broader culture and to collaborate with others effectively.
Liberal Arts courses introduce students to the disciplines of art history, cultural studies, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, and science.
Art history students develop skills of visual literacy and analysis by introducing the styles, movements, artists, and techniques understood to form cultural traditions. As the bridge between theory and practice, art history explores artists’ professional heritage. All who engage in creative pursuits grapple with material studies and the influence of predecessors as they negotiate past forms and strategies so that participation in the continual evolution of the arts is relevant.
PNCA students are intimately engaged with making, viewing, and interpreting art. It is crucial to understanding what art, design, and craft may be. The study and questioning of the history of making, viewing, and interpreting of the arts is an integral component of studio practice as students engage in their discipline.
English Composition and Literature
At PNCA, writing is a fundamental mode of knowing. English Composition and Literature courses offer a foundation for the ongoing study of how meaning is made and conveyed, in a manner transferable to all disciplines and pursuits. Students are accountable as both authors and audience; they analyze the work of others and also their own writing. They consider meaning in relation to audience, and enter into the continued investigation of how one might more successfully present concepts and material, in light of audience response, the history of the discipline, and the larger context, beyond the classroom, of incorporating outside material, influences, global dynamics and cultural concerns. There is a strong element of experimentation and self-examination in this pursuit.
In PNCA’s writing and literature courses, there is a passionate questioning of the world we live in, an immersion into its ambiguities, its contradictions and injustices, its sweet and bitter transformations, its wild beauty.
Social Science: History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies
The subject matter of upper division history and philosophy seminars changes every semester, but they share a common aim to provide an introduction to finding patterns in evidence, making decisions about which claims belong together and which must be set apart, and paring and re-arranging prose until it approaches truth, until it enlightens. Writing in these seminars tends to be discursive and exploratory. Students try to make the best sense they can of what research and reflection have revealed to them. Readings are chosen with both breadth and depth in mind. It is in these classes that students come to terms with book-length arguments.
Mathematics and Science
The role of science and mathematics at PNCA is to inspire students to critically and imaginatively participate in the evolving scientific and sociopolitical realities that define their lives. The focus of the math and science curriculum is to promote creative inquiry, empowering students with the analytical tools, research skills, and a knowledge base that enables them to reason logically, and represent their ideas accurately. Students develop an appreciation of the beauty and power of the methods and of the significance of these disciplines in relationship to the broader world. Students pursue quantitative and qualitative methodologies that include modeling complex systems within established theoretical frameworks while appreciating the historical, social, and ethical parameters of each discipline, and challenging inherent assumptions in considered and rigorous ways.
PNCA invited poet Joseph Lease, the author of numerous books of poetry to campus. Here, he reads from his most recent book of poetry, Testify. Photo by Micah Fischer ‘13.