Hamilton and the Liberal Arts

Each year students and staff at the University of Sioux Falls are invited to attended the annual Liberal Arts Colloquium held on the USF campus. Kevin Cole, Professor of English, created the colloquium over 15 years ago along with Dr. Dyer to help enrich the Liberal Arts experience on the USF campus.
“We thought with our limited resources that we had we could each year ask one USF faculty member to deliver a talk on the meaning and value of a liberal arts educations,” Cole says. “We’ve had serious talks, we’ve had comical talks, and everything in-between.”
The talk is designed to enrich the freshman experience at USF, but the entire campus is invited to join the talk. This years discussion was spearheaded by Dr. Stephen Jackson, a 5th year Assistant Professor of History. The colloquium discussed hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
“A few weeks ago out of the blue I got an email and Dr. Cole asked me if I wanted to be a part of it,” Jackson says. “I thought about it for a few seconds then thought oh yeah that’d be fun!”
Hamilton hit Broadway in 2015 and has received critical appraise for it’s musical style and historical context. The musical, written and lead by actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, has received 16 Tony awards since its debut.
“I have a confession to make, which is I am obsessed with Hamilton,” Jackson says. “Since the cast album came out I have listened to it I don’t know how many times, but a lot.”
Cole says he has listen to the album a few times, but not to the same extent of Jackson.
“I have listen to the soundtrack, not 55 times like he has,” Cole says. “One student said he didn’t know anything about Hamilton, but Professor Jackson was so enthusiastic I listened to every word.”
Jackson says that although Hamilton may not get everything historically correct with founding fathers of the United States, the message and meaning behind the story more than makes up for the historical inaccuracies.
“One of the things I hear so often is history is boring and why do I have to learn this,” Jackson says. “You watch something like Hamilton and you see this incredible work of art illuminating our past in this way, and it brings it to life in a way people are not familiar with.”
“The big take away is the liberal arts are powerful and they give you tools to make a difference,” Jackson says. “I think that is what Hamilton has done. It represents a fusion of many different disciplines. Hamilton represents who we are in this country and what we should think of ourselves and our past.”
As seniors at USF gear up for senior colloquiums, Jackson has a few words of advise for those students.
“Don’t panic is my primary advise,” Jackson says. “Be confident, be strong, be bold. In the words of Hamilton ‘Don’t throw away your shot’.”
Be sure to check your USF emails and campus calendars for further colloquium presentations on campus.

Story by Casey Kelderman | Video editoed by Jacob VanEngen & Cordell Wright