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ISSUE 116 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/2/2003

Schifani receives award

By Meredith Johnson
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 2, 2003

"Colorful, bright, wacky"—these are a few of the words classics department chair Anne Groton uses to describe the sophomores in the Great Conversation program. Their group flavor has been shaped both by living in the same dorm as first-years and by taking five courses together with Groton, English professor Jonathan Hill and philosophy professor Edward Langerak.

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."

Groton’s description of him is in accordance with Schifani’s reason for enrolling in the program. "I chose it because I like to read a lot and particularly the classics," he said.

Schifani’s 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 who’s 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.

"That’s when the Great Conversation’s 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 that’s what it’s all about."

Not all days in class were perfect, of course—Schifani 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 classmates—Schifani is quick to focus on the importance of everyone in the group joining into the conversation.

In reaction to his award, Schifani said, "It’s 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.

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