Keeper of the Liberal Arts

Posted by Paula Paine on September 10, 2014 in "Arie Smith", "Barb Dinneen", "critical thinking", Dinneen, LAS, "Liberal Arts Studies" Dr. Barbara Dinneen is Professor of English and Director of the Liberal Arts Studies (LAS) program at OU’s residential campus in Ottawa. She has taught writing at Washington University, French at the University of Kansas, and, for 16 years now, literature, history, and interdisciplinary liberal arts courses at Ottawa University.  
 
As Director of the LAS program for the past 12 years, Dinneen serves as the gatekeeper of the liberal arts-based education that OU’s residential students receive. She is a self-proclaimed advocate “for infusing the entire curriculum with a liberal arts ethos.”
 
More expressly, Dinneen says, “A well-designed liberal arts education intentionally provides opportunities – and challenges – that equip its claimant with an ability to listen, reason, evaluate, make connections, judiciously delay judgment, ask critical questions, and understand difference.”
 
Dinneen pursues her liberal arts advocacy through such means as writing manuals for interdisciplinary core seminars; leading reviews and revisions of the liberal arts program across the University; teaching First-Year Seminar, interdisciplinary seminars at the sophomore and junior level, and Senior Core (Group Problem Solving); conducting faculty workshops on Writing-Across-the-Curriculum, reaching millennial students, the role of a liberal arts education in today’s shareholder-first business environment, and a variety of other subjects. She also serves on the new Liberal Arts Council.
 
Dinneen’s first love as an English professor gives her ample opportunity to infuse the liberal arts into her curriculum. “Literature and history touch every facet of human experience,” she says. “Weaving through both of those disciplines is the thorny silk of language, which delights me no end.”
 
While acknowledging the intrinsic value of language, Dinneen loves using its power for a higher purpose - to extract from students’ minds what they often don’t realize is there. “My passion is to find ways to open students to their own intellectual power,” she says. “Satisfaction, for a professor whose primary role is teaching, comes from knowing she has encouraged at least some of her students to open their eyes to the value of the life of their own beautiful mind. It is independent of official accolades, incremental salary increases, and occasional pats on the back.”

Senior education major Arie Smith is one of those students. "While at OU, I took many classes taught by Barb Dinneen as English was my emphasis," says Smith. "I always admired the way her brain works and how she sees the world. It's like a puzzle that's made up of a thousand pieces that makes you understand life differently. Since freshman year, I have admired how fearless she is when it comes to something she firmly believes in, and I hope that one day I am half as courageous as she is."
 
Dinneen received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, double majoring in English and History. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. MO. She writes creatively, including a novel killing off her obstetrician titled The Doctor Came Due, and a work-in-progress satire of university life, as yet untitled.
 
In her spare time, Dinneen regularly cruises the county roads on her teal blue hybrid bike looking for horses and solitude, tries to appropriately parent her three children, and goes canoe-camping when she can get to “real water.” She admits to having a messy office, but she always keeps a big chair clear “for students who need a place to sit and drink tea.”