In December a student raised this question: “What is the purpose of college?” While obvious to many, this prompt sparks a worthwhile discussion. In the newly released book, College by Andrew Delbanco, the author/historian addresses precisely this question. Initially, as a way to study philosophy and engage in scholarly discourse, this practice on a traditional living and learning campus led to what we then and now call a liberal education. Times have changed, certainly from the days of Socrates, but the foundation of a good education, Delbanco argues, hasn’t changed much. A liberal education, one which cultivates an educated pupil to benefit the world with honed skills in discussion, analysis, writing, and problem-solving, is also what Justice Sonia Sotomayor recommends for today’s student, regardless of their intended major or career path.
I was privileged to hear Sotomayor speak at the University of Miami – a private research institution with nine schools in the tropics of Coral Gables, Florida. She was interviewed by the University’s president, Dr. Donna Shalala, about her newly released autobiography – My Beloved World. Not only did I come home with a signed 1st edition copy of her book, an in-depth look at the University, but also additional words of advice from Sotomayor that truly resonated. As she graciously opened-up about her childhood, she encouraged the audience – and her book’s readers – to follow their passion. My college counselor colleagues and I looked at each other as if she was deliberately giving us reason to continue a similar conversation with our students. She elaborated by saying that to be great at something, you need to be passionate about that something. The other piece of sage advice that induced a serious case of contemplation on my part was the following: ask questions. We all too frequently make assumptions without inquiry, often leading to miscommunication, hurt feelings, and perhaps missed opportunities.
Both College by Andrew Delbanco, and Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, My Beloved World, are good reads and provide valuable insight into the college search. Enjoy!