By Elizabeth H. Simmons, October 8, 2015
Lyman Briggs College was founded in 1967 by Michigan State University in order to bridge the perceived widening gap between the sciences and humanities. It was intended to serve as a center for cultural exchange between what C.P. Snow termed the “Two Cultures,” educating students in science considered within humanistic and social contexts. Nearly 50 years later, we can see how this mission naturally supports the university’s broader intellectual aims for MSU students.
The Lyman Briggs web page about the Briggs Experience describes how some of our interdisciplinary efforts to bridge the sciences and humanities are implemented. In particular:
When one is studying complex situations where there are no “right” answers, and doing so in the company of students from many different backgrounds, it is inevitable that one will encounter a reading or hear a statement during a class discussion that does not align with one’s pre-conceptions or current beliefs. Indeed, to judge by students’ comments on course evaluations, this happens regularly in our college. But what the students typically go on to say is that, regardless of whether engaging with a broader set of ideas changes their minds about an issue, they find it immensely valuable to examine the evidence and think through its implications in the company of their peers and instructors.
As it happens, I recently read a 2006 statement from the Association of American Colleges and Universities regarding Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility. A few key paragraphs state:
This clearly underscores the importance of the work we do here in Lyman Briggs. Not only is helping students appreciate science as a human endeavor important in and of itself, but the process of cultivating that appreciation also necessarily helps them develop critical thinking skills that will serve them well later in life.
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