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Tuvshinzaya during the 2012 Commencement ceremony, held at Rathaus Pankow. (Credit: Personal Archives)

On the BCB campus, it’s not uncommon to find students who switch seamlessly between their three mother tongues. Someone might hesitate before answering the question “Where are you from?” or “Where will you be next year?”

Last month, I sat down in front of my computer to chat with Tuvshinzaya Gantulga, a BCB alumnus who is also always on the move. Born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Tuvshinzaya was studying economics at the American University in Bulgaria when he decided to come to BCB (then ECLA*) to attend its Academy Year program. Before the year was up, he had decided to stay in Berlin and complete his BA studies at ECLA as part of its first graduating class in 2012. Upon his return to Mongolia, he worked in a grassroots NGO, founded the Mongolian Rowing Association, and headed the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia. My webcam caught him in Manhattan, New York, where he had just graduated with a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Over the course of a few hours we talked about Berlin, rowing, and education: what does a liberal arts education offer to students who are exceptionally mobile, and what can being mobile offer students who are exceptionally curious?

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Growing Things (Credit: Ronni Shalev)

Berlin, Again (Credit: Ronni Shalev)

Berlin, Again (Credit: Ronni Shalev)

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Susan Nieman on Why Grow Up (credit: BCB promotional poster)

Susan Neiman gives a presentation on her book Why Grow Up? at BCB (credit: BCB promotional poster)

In an audience consisting mostly of 20-something-year-olds, the question “why grow up?” awakens both curiosity and a deep mistrust. This mixed reaction comes as a result of wanting to know how to do it while harboring a suspicious attitude towards anyone who might try to make us do it too quickly. “Why grow up?” is the inquiry that Susan Neiman, the acclaimed moral philosopher and director of Potsdam’s Einstein Forum, delved into from behind the podium in Bard College Berlin’s lecture hall. Her book of the same name was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015 and deals with our society’s idea of adulthood.

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start-up

Berlin skyline at night (credit: Talent International).

Liberal arts students and graduates might be comforted by the claims in recent years that their degrees might not be as “useless” as they thought (or were told) they would be. The discourse around the demand for liberal arts graduates in the workforce especially revolves around hi-tech companies. It is skills such as “critical thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguity, to reach conclusions based on considered mastery of research and context” that make liberal arts graduates vital for growing hi-tech companies, says a Washington Post article called Why the Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree. A Forbes article says a liberal arts degree has become “Tech’s hottest ticket” and describes similar, “human skills” to be required by high-tech companies and provided by liberal arts/ humanities graduates.  So we might have a “hot ticket” once we graduate, but is it really the hottest? Some of Bard College Berlin’s (ECLA) graduates and a current BCB student working in the start-up world shared their thoughts on their liberal arts education with me.

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Dover String Quartet

Bryan Lee on second violin (Credit: Tamar Maare).

Last week at the Factory, BCB’s arts building, an attentive audience was allowed to have a small glimpse into the most private world of a creative process.

The first four notes of Beethoven’s Op. 74, No. 10 in E flat major, played in reverberating harmony by two violins, a viola, and a cello, filled the space in the factory’s dance studio. We held our breath.

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Comic Invasion Berlin

An impression from the opening of the 5th Comic Invasion Berlin (credit: Ronni Shalev).

We have come a long way from weekly superhero installments and 4-panel strips in the Sunday paper. Comics today are everywhere, and they can range from graphic novels to near-abstract illustrations. They are created using pencils, paint, collage, digital mediums and just about any other tool that can make an image.

Why do I think that comics are today’s most relevant art form? In an age of mass image sharing and self-published internet art, narrative illustrations are the natural successor to multimedia creativity. Existing alongside paper editions that make use of classical painting mediums, internet publications have .gif images for panels. Comics, one could argue, is the art form that is best suited for development in today’s internet age. The idea of combining simple text with narrative illustrations has been around since ancient times, but the past years have allowed digital art to integrate with classic drawing methods to create original and unique storytelling by blurring the borders between literature, illustration, and fine art.

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