Penn State

Richard J. Harnish - associate professor of psychology, Penn State New Kensington

Book Title: American Higher Education Transformed, 1940-2005: Documenting the National Discourse

Author: Smith, W., & Bender, T. (Eds.)

Book Description:

There are many good chapters in the text; however, I selected this book for the reprint of William Cronon’s “’Only Connect’…The Goals of a Liberal Arts Education.” After reading Cronon’s epistle, I wondered: How as an educator can I connect with my students? Do such connections make a difference in their lives? And in turn, do the connections made extend into the lives of others so the greater community benefits as well?

To answer these questions, I look toward the work my students and I have been doing with our local communities in addressing economic development issues. (Penn State New Kensington is located approximately twenty miles northeast of Pittsburgh in a region that has an aging population and declining commercial and industrial bases.) Through our efforts, connections have been made: between the psychology faculty and other faculty in business and communications; between faculty and students; and between students and the community. Through these connections, I have come to know my students and they have come to know me. The projects we have undertaken have provided an opportunity for students to appreciate their talents and to give back to their communities. Although we have not solved the economic development issues facing the communities, we have begun to lay the foundation for improving the region.

Because of the many pressing needs of the community, I sometimes feel overwhelmed. However, I remain hopeful each time I read Cronon words: “Whether we speak of our schools or our universities or ourselves, I hope we will hold fast to this as our constant practice, in the full depth and richness of its many meanings: Only connect.”


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