Related: Academic Center, Business Issues, Civil & Human Rights, Education

Conversations Across the Disciplines


NEW WITH SCIENCE IN BACKGROUND (Large)(New academic center, dedication this week on June 4, old Science Building beyond)

When Trinity’s first Science Building was dedicated in 1942, the keynote speech by Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, a Princeton Chemist, cited the anguish of an age when the world was at war, the second world war in a generation.  The hopeful promise of scientific progress, rampant at the end of the 19th Century, had given way to fear, despair and pessimism about humanity’s future.

“Side by side with man’s progressive triumph of nature in theoretical and applied science is his tragic inability to order his own life…”  Dr. Taylor went on to argue that while colleges and universities must teach science, balance with all disciplines is essential.  “It is by integration of the scientific with the humanistic, literary, social and spiritual aspects of life, rather than by suppression of the one, that the unity of Truth shall be harmoniously achieved.  Science must be taught; it must be well taught.  But we must also teach that science alone cannot provide a moral dynamic.”

He went on, citing the dramatic changes affecting the world economy and culture as a result of scientific developments during the war, everything from the development of synthetic fabrics replacing cotton and silk to changes in the food supply and discovery of healthier ways of eating in a time of scarcity.  He decried government officials who lacked scientific and technical knowledge and lambasted “inquisitions from Government sources” questioning scientific methods.

“Can we afford, as so often in the past, to divorce government from science, social relations from the changes in life and in living that automatically flow from invention and discovery?  If we are not to retreat, when the dark clouds of today are dissipated, to the war-breeding temporizing of the past two decades, must not some way be found to integrate all the points of view, fuse all the disciplines toward a better world for tomorrow?”

Citing Trinity’s motto Scientia Ancilla Fidei, he went on to say, “Science understanding faith will not alone be sufficient.  The humanities and the social sciences must reach some measure of integration with science.”

Dr. Taylor’s speech in 1942 occurred three years before the end of World War II, a peace achieved through the terrible destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Speaking at Hiroshima last week — the first American president to visit that city in the 71 years since the atom bomb destroyed it — President Barack Obama offered these thoughts that echoed the reflections of 1942:

“The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints….we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.”  (President Barack Obama speaking at Nagasaki, May 26, 2016)

Educating students for the moral and ethical challenges of society in each age has long been a hallmark of Trinity’s curriculum.  Whether a student majors in Biology or Business, Psychology or Politics, every Trinity graduate has also experienced a learning environment that places concepts of honor and integrity, social justice and peace at the center of the academic enterprise.  Cross-disciplinary conversation is essential for the formation of future professional and civic leaders who have not only the specific deep knowledge of the major but also the perspectives that come from broad study in the liberal arts with a clear ethical framework.

Trinity’s new academic center — to be named the Payden Academic Center at this week’s dedication in honor of the great benefactor Joan Payden ’53 and her family — is a beautiful building that also reflects Trinity’s belief in the integration of knowledge across disciplines.  Certainly Dr. Taylor would be pleased to note that the new building integrates all disciplines, with science and nursing laboratories sharing space with classrooms and study areas for all students and faculty.

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The integrated nature of the classrooms and laboratories in this new building ensures that the dialogues of learning across all disciplines will occur continuously.  Ethicists and Economists will teach across and down the halls from experiments in Microbiology and Chemistry, and research into genome mapping or pollution in Ivy City will occur alongside classes examining Business principles and Sociological evidence.  Nursing students will learn how to respond to patient emergencies in state-of-the-art simulation laboratories while Psychology and English classes occur nearby.  Students and faculty in all disciplines will encounter each other in new ways, enlarging the essential conversations about the ways in which education at Trinity prepares students for effective participation and leadership in the multidisciplinary world of work and politics and civic engagement for the future.

More to come about the new academic center.  Please join us on Friday, June 3 from 1:30 to 5:00 pm for academic programming in the new building, and then on Saturday, June 4 starting at 10 am for the dedication.

4 20 2016 (Large)

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: