The "Siren Call" of the Liberal Arts

The “Siren Call” of the Liberal Arts

Date published: March 27, 2017

Angela Lill entered the University of Dallas as an undergraduate in the Constantin College of Liberal Arts. Now, just a handful of years and a bachelor’s degree later, Lill’s academic journey at UD has taken her not only to the Braniff Graduate School, but also to summer studies in Germany. What propelled her on this track? As Lill describes it, she could not ignore the “siren call” of the liberal arts.

Tell me a little about yourself.

AL: I am going into my third year of coursework for the Institute of Philosophic Studies (IPS) Politics program. My husband and I both grew up in West Michigan, and now we live in Denton, Texas with our two cats. We love to travel in our free time—I am currently in Berlin!

Where were you before your degree?

AL: Not far—before Braniff, I was in Constantin. I completed my Bachelor's at UD in 2013. UD's Catholic identity and Rome Program first attracted me. I knew next to nothing about the Great Books or what a liberal arts education meant; I just wanted to be a lawyer. I probably would be practicing law now if it weren't for Dr. Parens's “Philosophy and the Ethical Life” course that I took my freshman year. That course was my “siren call.” I declared philosophy as my major and later added politics as a second.

What is the experience at Braniff Graduate School like for you?

AL: I'm keeping myself quite busy during my time at Braniff. The coursework is challenging, both deepening and widening my love of old books. I've also been active in the Braniff Graduate Student Association (BGSA). I've spent the last two years as secretary and will be serving as president this upcoming school year. Most importantly, I've found a spirit of camaraderie at Braniff. We challenge and support each other to grow as academics and as people; we travel to conferences together; we share our ideas. Some of my most cherished memories of Braniff will be those nights where a lively classroom discussion continues on someone's porch over a beer—or two. It's wonderful to be surrounded by people who are kept awake at night by the same questions.

How has this degree played a role in what you are doing now?

AL: I was awarded a Deutscher Akadimischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) scholarship in order to study German in Germany this summer. I am currently taking courses at the Dresden Goethe Institute with people from all over the world. I pursued this opportunity because German is important for my work at Braniff. I've spent a considerable amount of time studying the works of major German thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, and Heidegger. I am also interested in the influence of the German Historical School of Economics on early 20th century American public policy as well as the experiences of those behind the Iron Curtain. Much of the information in these areas remain largely untranslated into English. A better grasp of the German language will allow me to engage with German scholars and access German archives.

What surprised you about your program?

AL: Well, having already been acquainted with University of Dallas as an undergraduate student, I was surprised to discover that another dynamic strata of student life exists on campus at the graduate level. I had no idea the Braniff students are so active in cultivating the intellectual and social atmosphere at UD! Braniff student initiative makes possible certain gems on campus—the Braniff Salon, our journal Ramify and the Braniff Conference in the Liberal Arts. Informally, students have also been known to form their own symposiums and reading groups.

Is there a course or professor you particularly enjoyed?

AL: To pick just one, Dr. Miller has been a great mentor both personally and professionally. I've taken several courses with her. Her 20th Century course alone inspired two separate papers that I later presented at conferences. She is also incredibly generous with her time outside of the classroom. I can think of more than one occasion where we lost track of time and sat talking for two hours or more.

What sets the Braniff Graduate School apart?

AL: Braniff is unique in both its interdisciplinary approach and the seriousness with which it approaches the big questions about the human condition. Underpinning Braniff is the general notion that the great thinkers of the western intellectual tradition can be brought into meaningful conversation with one another—and with us today. For my coursework, I may start the day with Xenophon and a few hours later turn to Dostoevsky. As a politics student, my thoughts are enriched not only by politics professors and students, but also by those in literature, philosophy, and theology. I love that. I often forget how rare that is outside of UD.

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