Lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion opens up the world

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHAO XINYING in Bei­jing


Al­though he didn’t have a lib­eral arts ed­u­ca­tion, David Madi­gan, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent for arts and sciences at Columbia Univer­sity in the City of New York, is still a “huge be­liever” in this form of ed­u­ca­tion.

The Ir­ish-born US statis­ti­cian has three chil­dren, all of whom are stu­dents at Columbia Col­lege, one of the finest un­der­grad­u­ate in­sti­tu­tions in the United States pro­vid­ing stu­dents with wide-rang­ing per­spec­tives on sub­jects in­clud­ing lit­er­a­ture, his­tory, mu­sic, art and sci­ence.

“It’s been fab­u­lous just to watch their in­tel­lec­tual de­vel­op­ment,” Madi­gan said, adding that hav­ing a lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion is like hav­ing great book clubs, where stu­dents work in small groups, read the same thing at the same time and talk about their read­ing con­stantly.

“It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence,” Madi­gan said. In his eyes, a solid lib­eral arts ed­u­ca­tion pre­pares peo­ple to lead a beau­ti­ful life.

The fac­ulty of arts and sciences that Madi­gan is in charge of com­prises fac­ulty from the so­cial sciences, hu­man­i­ties and nat­u­ral sciences in five dif­fer­ent schools within Columbia Univer­sity.

With 14 No­bel lau­re­ates, 48 mem­bers of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences and 78 mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Academy of Arts and Sciences, the fac­ulty is among the most rec­og­nized in the world. The alumni are lead­ers in their fields and widely rec­og­nized for their con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety.

Madi­gan came to Bei­jing in late Oc­to­ber, to make con­nec­tions with po­ten­tial stu­dents and meet the alumni of Columbia Univer­sity, as well as cre­at­ing new part­ner­ships with ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and other en­ti­ties in China.

Born and raised in a “small, poor” town in Ire­land, Madi­gan earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in math­e­mat­ics and PhD in sta­tis­tics, both from Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin.

It was a fo­cused and spe­cial­ized ed­u­ca­tion, but Madi­gan ac­cessed a whole dif­fer­ent world of ideas, his­tory, phi­los­o­phy and think­ing through read­ing.

His Ir­ish town, though small and poor, had a very good li­brary.

“So I read con­stantly,” he said.

He said a lib­eral arts ed­u­ca­tion is per­haps not the only way to ac­quire a breadth of knowl­edge, but it’s a beau­ti­ful way to do it.

“It’s never end­ing, I still read all the time,” he said.

David Madi­gan, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for arts and sciences at Columbia Univer­sity

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