Hi, my name is Lily Rose Fitzmaurice and I graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts at the University of Warwick in 2020. My Specialist Interest Pathway title was 'Psychodynamic and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Childhood and Education'. Since then I took a year out to work remotely, so I've been working with the University through the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning and I've also been working on a few research papers with academics (both within and outside of Warwick). This coming October I'll be starting at the University of Cambridge for an integrated MPhil and PhD, where I'll be looking at cultural constructions of children and childhood and how these are presented in children's literature and how these cultural constructions translate into early education settings.
What advice would you give to our current students studying Liberal Arts? I think in regards to picking modules, maybe, don't get too caught up in content alone. You can take a module because it will offer you an introduction to a certain theorist that you think will be interesting for your area of research, it'll offer you certain skill sets, you would like the assessment type. I think because in Liberal Arts you're always trying to work towards this research area, so obviously that does involve wanting to gain certain knowledge of content in certain areas, but I think that also really does involve making sure that you have certain skill sets and making sure that you have those kinds of holistic skills, so with Liberal Arts we do a lot of Problem-Based Learning, but for me, there were a number of modules that I decided to take because they offered me the opportunity to explore a certain theorist, for example, that I thought I could draw into. For example, a good one would be in 'Art and Revolution' we look at Rousseau who is really significant in education theory and is someone that I've had to draw on quite a bit since, even though when we were studying him in 'Art and Revolution' it was in a different context and for different reasons, but again you're always pulling on these things. So I think don't get so caught up in necessarily the name of a module because there's always ways that you'll bring in your own interests and also bring in your interest that would be advice I would give. Always try and bring it back to what you're trying to work towards.
In regards to advice as well, I would say, like I was saying before, about how you should bring your own interests into modules, also remember that when you do that it's not just for an assessment, but also in the class. Bring in what you're learning in other modules into the class discussion because that also helps in how the dialogue is formed in the class between peers and you get to learn from one another as well because you're all taking different modules in different parts of the university. I think one of the core things in any kind of interdisciplinary practice is that of course, you can't know everything about every subject, so it's about what you do with the content, not about how much content you know or how you've you know learned it off.
You'll very rarely in Liberal Arts be asked to memorise things, because it's not about that it's much more about how you were able to work with the information that you're given and also as well so because different members of the department will be working - or different colleagues, your peers - in different subject areas, also in group assessments and things, it gives you the opportunity to work together and bring in what you've learned from different departments. So one of you may have a specialist area in Economics, one of you may be studying a lot in Sociology and Politics, and it gives you the opportunity for different members of say a group project or group presentation to draw on those different disciplines, to create a really whole, holistic, thoughtful approach to a problem, recognising that you each will have different things to bring into the interdisciplinary conversation.
I would say also just recognising that when you're bringing those different disciplinary areas in, it's not just for you and your assessments but it also helps the class work together in those kinds of dynamics of conversation that I think are really critical and significant and I really value in the kind of seminar approach to Liberal Arts at Warwick. You will very rarely have like lectures - obviously you will when you join the bigger departments, so if you're taking like a Philosophy module or something - but in Liberal Arts itself it's pretty much all (I think actually just all) seminar-based, so it's all small problem-solving settings essentially. So you'll have seminars where you'll be asked to look at different readings and then come to class bringing in readings that you may have found yourself, as well as readings that may have been set and kind of co-constructing that conversation about the topic.
Often as well, the tutors will kind of invite students to also help create the direction of the module itself. So I know for example in 'Underworlds', Bryan would often say these are the options: would you rather study this, would you rather study this, or is there a topic in kind of the 'underworlds' arching theme that isn't in the current curriculum for this module this term and that you'd like to look at, how can we bring that in, what would you rather do. One of the things I loved about 'Underworlds' was every week there was a blog where you would write down yours. It's like a reflective blog, essentially you'd write down reflections on what you've been learning as a whole and then those reflections would guide the conversation at the beginning of the next week. So you'd have those finished for the weekend and then on Monday we would begin each week, looking at the reflections and drawing on those and seeing how we can tie those into the conversation that week. So that also gave a real feeling as though you were a part of creating the class, the kind of itinerary, the route that was was being taken and that's something I really, really appreciated and valued and something that I felt often in the Liberal Arts modules that you were a part of the direction and progression of the module. I rarely ever felt like it was just a matter of you know oh we get to the final week and it's like 'Okay what's your feedback? Oh well, you know, I guess the next cohort will see the benefits of that feedback'. You always felt like the tutors were trying during the module to listen to your perspectives and thoughts and how can we make this better and how can we improve and what would you like and how can we do that. So yeah that was really really valuable and I really appreciated that as well.