Professor Lisa Arellano, who received the 2012 Charles Bassett Senior Class Teaching Award, gave what is known as the Last Lecture May 14 as the Class of 2012 moved from final exams into Senior Week activities.
“It’s very odd for me to be giving a lecture,” she said at the outset, noting that in every syllabus for every class she states: “I am adamantly and sincerely committed to the value of in-class discussion.”
Discussion, she said, is “where we find ourselves intellectually at work. … It’s the guts of a liberal arts education.”
Arellano, assistant professor of American studies and director of Colby’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, organized her talk around a quote from philosopher and queer theorist Judith Butler that is part of a reading she assigns. “Let’s face it,” she quoted, “we’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”
That sense of pushing one another to the point of “undone” is the goal of her revered in-class discussions, and it’s something that does not happen as often after graduation, she warned. “I receive e-mails from former students lamenting the loss of discussion in their lives. … What surprises them, I think, is how desperately they miss the opportunity for discussion.”
When it came to advice, Arellano urged students to continue seeking opportunities to be undone as they navigate the world.
Arellano, who came to Colby in 2005, was granted tenure in January and will be promoted to associate professor in the fall. Caitlin Burchill ’12, one of three students who introduced Arellano said, “She’s an absolute inspiration for all of us who had her.”
A video of her Last Lecture is online.