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Cultures converge at Arts and Letters conference

Arts and Letters conference 2016
Keynote speaker Dr. Leonard Nevarez's research explores areas of our country where people are choosing to live based on a consumption-based lifestyle rather than what the location offers for their careers. In this photo is a scene of civic participation in Kingston, New York, one location that Nevarez traveled to for his research because of its rising popularity with this creative class of professionals. (Courtesy of Dr. Leonard Nevarez).

The fourth biannual College of Arts & Letters Conference at the University of North Georgia (UNG) afforded faculty from UNG, as well as national and international colleagues, the opportunity to discuss the research they are pursuing within culture and place.

"Culture and place are critical areas of discussion in our increasingly global interactions with students and colleagues, so having a conference focused on research within those disciplines serves as a timely avenue for learning and connections," said Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of UNG's College of Arts & Letters. "Through sharing original research and having open, creative discussions about the content, we advance the knowledge of the individual and the mission of our university to create leaders for a global society."

Topics varied from exploring virtues within epics from ancient Greek and Indian culture to the role pedagogy plays in building culture among elementary students studying Spanish. These projects were presented by UNG faculty Dr. Michael Proulx, associate professor of history, and Dr. Kristi Hislope, associate head of the Department of Spanish, respectively.

The conference provided faculty a look into the work of their peers and reviews and critiques of their own work. The exchange of ideas and scholarship within culture and place give greater context in how faculty can prepare their students to lead in a world where cultures and places intersect at an increasing rate.

Keynote speaker Dr. Leonard Nevarez of Vassar College presented "A Place to Get Away From it All: Lifestyle Pursuits and Conceptual Questions from the New Urban Economy," in which he addresses the phenomenon of a "creative class" of workers, such as artists and writers, who choose where they live based not on what the location has to offer for their careers, but much more on what kind of lifestyle they can lead.

"These are workers who have a great deal of freedom in where they work; they don't have to show up in the office every day nor do they have to work from nine to five," Nevarez said. "Workers in other industries might choose their locations by criteria such as flexible hours or where their partners might be able to work. This creative class of workers is more interested in the consumption of where they live — a specific quality and way of life."

Nevarez added that conferences like this offer more than a means to view the range of research being done; he said it is also very mentally stimulating in sometimes unexpected ways.

"It's also a unique opportunity for self-critique," Nevarez said. "For instance, it is important for scholars to step back and ask more than, 'what do we want to study,' but also, 'what are the implications of our publications?' These implications can include what may happen if, as an example, we publicize our views on cutting-edge locations for lifestyle and entertainment."

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