Though the students have a distinctive group personality, each individual member brings a fresh voice to the conversation. On Apr. 9, one of these students was recognized: Christopher Schifani 05 was singled out to receive the Great Conversation Student of the Year Award.
Schifani was chosen from a talented pool of students because of his passion for the literature the class studied.
"For Chris in particular, it was his love of the material," Groton said. "He reads constantly and with great appreciation of the literature."
Grotons description of him is in accordance with Schifanis reason for enrolling in the program. "I chose it because I like to read a lot and particularly the classics," he said.
Schifanis love of the classics has sparked an interest in becoming a classics teacher himself, either at the high school or college level. He is currently a classics major and is considering becoming a music history major as well.
Such a diverse interest in subject matter is highly valued by students and professors in the Great Conversation Program. Schifani himself considers an open mind to be the most important characteristic of a Great Conversation student. The first adjective Groton used to describe the students in the program was "diverse"followed immediately by "yet compatible."
This compatibility is a key characteristic of successful Great Conversation students.
"You want someone whos good at speaking and also at listening someone who appreciates what others have to say,"Groton said.
Looking back on his two years in the program, Schifani lists his favorite classes as being the ones in which everybody was just really engaged and had something to say.
"Thats when the Great Conversations really at its best. ," he said. "Everyone was really excited about what we were talking about. Everyone had something to contribute and something to learn, and thats what its all about."
Not all days in class were perfect, of courseSchifani remembers times when he did not enjoy what they were doing because it did not seem to make sense or tie in with what they had been studying.
Still, he said, such frustrations were always resolved by some new material they read that would tie things together and cause everything to make sense again. As a result, he said, "My respect for this program has grown over the past two years."
Equally strong is his respect for his classmatesSchifani is quick to focus on the importance of everyone in the group joining into the conversation.
In reaction to his award, Schifani said, "Its a real honor and a pleasure and a privilege to be singled out from so many people who have worked so hard and are so enthusiastic about what they do."
The ongoing synthesis and analysis of diverse types of literature is one of the defining characteristics of the Great Conversation program Schifani lists an open mind as being the most important quality of a Great Conversation student.