Support Liberal Studies

Letter from the Chair - 2021

Lola Berber

A lot has happened since we last sent a newsletter in 2019. I’m happy to report that our very adaptable student body, faculty and staff continued to do excellent work under all conditions, including all different modalities of teaching and learning. Our faculty and staff have been resilient and creative, working with each other with grace and care. Our students performed in an exemplary way during the last year and a half and overcame many obstacles.

Our new department coordinator, Bronwyn Ciccone, was essential in managing this unpredictable period. She joined us officially in February 2020, and her Cal Poly city and regional planning degree came in handy. She helped us transition amazingly well, keeping up real and caring connections with our students, faculty and the many departments teaching our curriculum while navigating all the new college and university requirements. 

We continue to be proud of our graduates. Every year their eagerness and enthusiasm is a source of inspiration for us. The classes of 2020 and 2021 proved to be exceptionally strong. Even in the changing circumstances, they successfully met their goals. 

We had an extraordinary number of students complete their bachelor’s degree — 104 in the 2020-21 academic year. Many will continue to pursue a credential or master’s program. We are honored to have worked with them and wish them the best. 

In 2019 we completed our program review, as we do every seven years, and presented a strategic action plan. We’re happy to report that as a result of our work, we have the first two tenure track faculty members in Liberal Studies! 

We were thrilled to have these superb new professors join our department, making it even stronger than before. Amanda Frye focuses on the social foundations of education, and Jasmine Nation is our science specialist. They recently completed their first year teaching — entirely virtually! — and did an amazing job.

We also sadly lost one of our lecturers, Stephanie Miller, who taught for us from fall 2013 to spring 2015. In memory of Stephanie, I want to share this advice she used to give her students:

“My teacher message just for you: A candy kiss because everyone needs hugs and kisses, a cotton ball to help you cushion and soften some of the hard times, a candle to brighten your way in life, a sweet and sour candy to remind you that parts of your day may be sweet, and others, sour, a smile because we all need them and they are contagious, a rubber band to remind you to be flexible in all areas of life, an eraser to remind you that you are not perfect but we are unique!”

In fall 2020 we started teaching a new course, Children’s Literature in a Diverse Society, which is also a GE course. It has a strong emphasis on racially diverse themes and authors and has already become a popular course for all majors.  

At the end of spring 2020, two of our beloved faculty retired: Anne Marie Bergen and Russell Swanagon. We missed having a celebration for them due to COVID restrictions, but we know their influence will continue with all the teachers they have inspired. While Russell continues to teach LS 310 Storytelling and hopes to lead the Ireland study abroad program again when travel restrictions ease, Anne Marie is taking some well-deserved time off but stays connected by working as a Frost undergraduate research mentor.

Please take time to sign their virtual cards: 
•    Card for Ann Marie Bergen
•    Card for Russell Swanagon 

Thank you for all that you do to support the Liberal Studies Department. Our larger community has been a great help over the past year, and we appreciate you keeping connected with us. We would love to hear about your new adventures — please email us any time at

Lola Berber-Jiménez  

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