“Re-invent, TRANSFORM, integrate your life and your work.”
That’s the tag line for the MALS program. The more I reflect on these words, the more I see them as an apt illustration of how graduate study in the liberal arts challenges and changes you, our students.
The last MALS MATTERS featured the word “re-invent” by comparing contemporary MALS students to Ben Franklin whose fertile creative mind enabled him to be a printer and publisher, inventor, political theorist, musician, diplomat, and wit. This issue of MALS MATTERS highlights the verb “transform.”
Naturally, I think first of the significant intellectual transformation that occurs when you meet the challenge of LST 501: Being Human, LST 502: Knowledge and Culture, and LST 503: Values and Action. Things happen:
• your brain cells fire in new and startlingly different patterns
• your research interests and skills expand to broader horizons
• your writing reflects deeper analysis and emotional engagement
• your interpersonal relationships develop beyond debate to camaraderie
But, of course, intellectual transformation is not the only major change that MALS evokes and sometimes provokes. Often, new life directions emerge that can be deeply spiritual and personally fulfilling. I remember vividly how making a movie as part of their capstone experience nudged two students to change professions; then, there are the students who went on to publish a book: one, a guide for youngsters struggling with a family member’s suicide; the other, a young adult novel about the experience of being sent to a tough-love, cutting edge drug rehabilitation center. Several of our more than eighty graduates have discovered the inner resources to risk starting their own business, become involved in local politics, or make a major change in their career path to earn advanced degrees in counseling or creative writing. Each grad has commented that MALS gave them the courage to move forward…or sideways… or diagonally… or outward. I am absolutely delighted that recently, a few MALS grads, on their own initiative, created a book discussion club, appropriately naming themselves “The Inklings” after the 1930s/40s Oxford literary group of C.S. Lewis, J.R. R. Tolkien and colleagues. This is MALS transformation in action! I fondly remember having a beer several years ago at The Inklings’ favorite pub, “The Eagle and the Child,” referred to by local wags as “the Bird and Baby.” Here’s a photo of their Oxford hangout.
Perhaps the most significant transformation in MALS graduates is how their lives assume new significance and coherence, and how they often discover ways of transforming the lives of others. Here are just two examples: in MALS MATTERS #3, Jack Clarcq shared his experience of LST 503: Values and Action and how this academic study urged him to become involved in assisting the poor in our inner city; in this issue, Diane Sturmer describes how her passion for dance transformed the life of a wheel-chair bound woman. Each story is a new twist on “paying it forward.” I call that transformation with a capital “T.”
Bravo and Brava, MALS grads. Well done. Let’s keep up the momentum of transforming ourselves and at least one corner of our world.
Monica Weis, S.S.J.
Read more from this issue: