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A Once Reluctant Student Finds Purpose in Eclectic Pursuit of Knowledge

Written by John Chadwick | SAS Senior Writer

An undergraduate career stands as testament to liberal arts and sciences

Mark Hansen had his doubts about going to college.

He was a creative thinker with a flair for finding alternative paths.

“My parents pushed me to go to college,” he says. “I wanted to start a record label.”

So he compromised by studying sound recording and music business at a school in Connecticut.

But Hansen experienced a political awakening that caused him to rethink his future. He wanted to contribute to the public conversation about political and social issues, but in a way that would highlight overlooked perspectives and resonate with ordinary citizens.

“You can’t expect every person to have the time or energy to develop a stance on every problem,” he says. “So I feel that the best way to get people involved is through art, music, and mass culture.”

Convinced he needed a more comprehensive education, he transferred to Rutgers and began a relentless pursuit of knowledge.

At the School of Arts and Sciences, where he is a senior in the Honors Program, he has taken off in multiple directions with his studies, drawing intriguing connections between humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and fine arts.

Mark HansenHe’ll graduate with degrees in American studies and visual arts. But he has also focused on cultural anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, and political science.

Hansen describes his eclectic academic record as a response to a complex world facing complicated problems. It’s also a testament to the enduring appeal of the liberal arts and sciences.

“I felt it was better to have an understanding of many disciplines, rather than sticking with a single field,” Hansen says. “I felt that innovative thinking came from an interdisciplinary approach.” Indeed, this semester he plans to work with students from the Department of Biomedical Engineering on a mobile game/application aimed at detecting autism and other developmental disabilities in children. He is planning on a career in architecture, but in a capacity that goes beyond designing buildings. He wants to explore how architecture can help strengthen communities and contribute to civic life. Ultimately, he is seeking work that will benefit society.

“I feel lucky that through fate, or through chance, I am here at Rutgers, and I have resources at my disposal,” he says. “I have no excuse not to help those who did not have such luck.” 



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