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Faculty responds to Jill Ker Conway’s visit

October 1, 2010

For the past three years, Introduction to Liberal Arts students have been reading and discussing Jill Ker Conway’s autobiography “The Road from Coorain.” This year however, ILA classes have had the special opportunity to meet and talk with Ker Conway.

 In July, “The Road from Coorain,” was sent to every ILA student with a letter saying that book was expected to be read by the time classes started in August. Back then, no student would have guessed the impact Ker Conway’s book would have on them by the end of September. However, the most interesting part of Ker Conway’s visit is that no professor expected the amount of meaning she really could convey to Monmouth’s ILA students. 

Professor Marlo Belschner, who teaches ILA this semester, was especially impressed with Ker Conway’s impact on the students.

“Students don’t often have the opportunity to meet the author of a book they have studied and Jill Ker Conway’s visit really brought the text alive for them,” said Belschner. “Students found her approachable and interesting.”

Professor Mark Willhardt, the coordinator of ILA, was a big help in getting Ker Conway to visit campus. Along with philosophy professor, Anne Mamary, Willhardt was able to schedule Ker Conway for the Sam Thompson Lecture and for the ILA convocation.

After Ker Conway’s visit, Willhardt said his ILA class was surprised by some of the answers Conway gave in her question and answer session.

“I Know that my own section [of ILA] was interested to hear her talk about the relationship with her family, particularly her difficult mother,” stated Willhardt. “When she said her mother was really the hero of The ‘Road from Coorain,’ it really took them by surprise and asked them to reconsider what they knew about the book.”

The “Road from Coorain” includes many significant messages within its text, but the most important message was actually delivered during the convocation by Ker Conway. Professor Willhardt explained that knowledge is crucial, and Ker Conway gave students a chance to use their own knowledge to develop exceptional questions so they could get back Ker Conway’s answers.

Biology Professor Kevin Baldwin, agreed that the question and answer session was excellent.

“‘The Road from Coorain’ talk was well received by our students who really seemed to enjoy interacting with the author of something they had read,” said Baldwin. “She also had a really interesting take on women’s history by incorporating both demography and the history of science into her analysis.”

ILA professors at Monmouth enjoyed the opportunity of having their students visit with Ker Conway.  “Her visit brought the book to life for students, which is what we hope with every reading we assign,” said Belschner.

Contributing Writer

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