Liberal arts go beyond the traditional at Oregon State

January 2nd, 2007

To many, the idea of pursuing a liberal art-type major would draw a yawn or some joke about their subsequent employment including asking one “if they wanted fries with that.” OSU’s College of Liberal Arts provides a break from the norm and ties into the strengths of being at a research university.

Joseph Orosco is using new technology to teach some old school concepts. The OSU assistant professor of philosophy is one of an increasing number of faculty nationally embracing “podcastingâ€? as a way to reach a new generation of students. For his podcasting program, he records interviews with scholars on a variety of contemporary topics, then makes them available online for students to download onto their MP3 digital players…â€?Higher education today faces a challenge in hooking students into reading, thinking and thought-provoking activities, Orosco says. “This is a way to perhaps begin bridging those divides through the lure of new technology.â€? This concept of “truth-seekingâ€? is ancient, Orosco says, but appeals to students because of the issues. Among his interview topics: whether terrorism can be justified, the importance of diversity and the popularity of The Da Vinci Code.

Think psychology is just about understanding dreams or listening to someone’s problems? Think again:

Think you’re efficient, able to handle multiple jobs simultaneously?
Don’t get overconfident. New studies at OSU show that even those who excel at “multi-taskingâ€? cannot do so without a cost. In simple terms, you can’t talk on a cell phone and drive a car without sacrificing attention — to your phone-mate, or to your driving.“Even with a seemingly simple task, structural cognitive limitations can prevent you from switching to a new task,â€? says Mei-Ching Lien, an assistant professor of psychology at OSU, whose studies have gained national attention. To understand the consequences of task-switching on mental processes, Lien and colleagues measured volunteers’ responses to a variety of auditory and visual cues. When the volunteers prepared for one task, such as responding to the color red, their responses were swift and accurate. When the researchers added a second element — the recognition of shapes as well as color — the task switch considerably delayed the responses, even when the volunteers were ready. The study has obvious implications for driving safety, Lien says.“A lot of people think talking on the cell phone while driving is natural, but each time someone asks a question or changes the subject, it’s like taking on a new task…In most cases, a passenger can observe when there is a dangerous traffic situation and keep quiet. But someone calling you on a cell phone won’t have a clue.â€? Individual differences in response rates were small, but Lien has yet to test anyone who is immune to delays in multi-tasking.

Writers rejoice! A state school with successful creative writers as professors??? After winning three Oregon Book Awards and a bushel of glowing reviews for his novels, Professor of English Tracy Daugherty has received a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, one of just 27 meted out to writers and poets throughout the United States.

Segments courtesy of the OSU President’s Report.

Get more about the Liberal Arts at OSU.

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