At a liberal-arts college like the University of Richmond, students are encouraged (and even to some extent required) to pursue interests beyond their primary field of study. This does come with costs — our students do less advanced coursework in their discipline than a student who graduates from, say, a European university — but on balance I really like it.
In the past week, I’ve seen a couple examples of students in my department doing exciting, non-physics-related things.
On Sunday, I went to the Christmas service of lessons and carols at the University Chapel. Two student choirs, the Womens’ Chorale and the mixed-gender Schola Cantorum, performed a beautiful and highly varied set of Christmas vocal music. About half a dozen students I’ve had in advanced physics classes (Isaac Rohrer, Joe Kelly, Grace Dawson, Kelsey Janik, Ed Chandler, and I’m pretty sure some more I’m forgetting) were among the performers.
Just this morning, there was a piece on our local public radio station about an interdisciplinary art / archaeology / ecology project in which they consider and modify the environment of a university parking lot in a variety of ways. One of the students interviewed in the piece, David Ricculli, is a physics major who worked in my lab. Another, Kelsey Janik, is not a physics major but has taken several of our advanced courses, as well as my first-year seminar, and is also one of the singers.
In past years, I’ve seen our physics students display art work in on-campus exhibitions, perform in a huge variety of theatrical and musical events, and present talks on topics like monetary policy in ancient Rome. I really enjoy seeing the range of things they can do.