Meghan Rosatelli headshotThe first day of class I always ask my students what brought them here. Not to SPCS, or even to a literature or humanities class, but what brought them specifically to my class, whether it’s Memoirs in American Art, Digital LiteratureFrom Sleuths to Cyborgs, or one of the other classes I’m privileged to teach. The answers typically fall into one of two camps, sometimes both: I needed a liberal arts course to graduate, or this was the only class that fit my schedule.

I love the reliability of those answers because they prepare us to do the work of learning together. Together, we get to explore the tools that breathe life into stories. It’s a thrill of shared discovery and revelation that I’m so grateful to indulge here at the University of Richmond with those of you who have walked through my door, because watching stories come alive for you for the first time reinvents them for me each semester.

And, to be clear, that “shared discovery and revelation” isn’t easy. It’s not always intuitive to connect the study of Zora Neale Hurston or the confusing breadth of postmodern theory to the advancement of your career. Connecting the dots between the liberal arts and our day jobs can sometimes feel like a thankless, or even pointless, task. I know — I work a corporate day job that sometimes feels quite distant from our classroom discussions.

But, over the past thirteen years of teaching, I can say with confidence that studying literature and the arts makes us better humans. A love of literature ignites creativity that helps us write better code, because code is a language. Stories unleash the empathy that’s required to become better teachers or people managers. I know this not just from the hundreds of students I’ve taught, but from my own experience. I’m a better professor, people manager, experience designer, artist, writer, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, all because of stories. Stories are conduits through which we can understand our world and live better in it.

Novelist James Baldwin reminds us, “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.” Thank you, class of 2020, for always being open to the unknown. Congratulations on your fantastic achievements, and thank you for this award.