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School of Liberal Arts

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Message from the Dean

Image of Dr. Martin Shaffer, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Marist.

When students and their families visit the College, I often suggest that the best way to understand the liberal arts at Marist is to take a walk around Fontaine Hall, the award-winning building that houses our school. These are the kinds of things they might encounter:

  • A student consulting with a professor in the History Department about a project based on the wartime letters of Eleanor Roosevelt. With the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum just three miles away, our students enjoy the opportunity to perform original archival research about a pivotal time in American history.
  • A meeting of the Marist College Guild of Theatre Arts taking place in our Black Box Theatre. Boasting over 90 members and run by students, MCCTA is one of the oldest clubs at Marist and stages several productions a year independently or in tandem with the  Marist Theatre Program, such as Urinetown performed this year.
  • A faculty member in the Department of Modern Languages & Cultures coordinating the individual placement of a Spanish major for a semester’s worth of study at the Universidad de Seville in Spain. Nearly 50% of Marist undergraduates studied abroad in semester-long or short-term programs.
  • A copy of the Mosaic, a literary and photovisual magazine published each semester by the Literary Arts Society, a student group of creative writers and artists. In addition to publishing student work, the club’s activities include trips to literary sites, an annual poetry slam, and on-campus readings and courses by well-known poets and novelists.
  • A poster display highlighting students' research into hunger issues in the Hudson River Valley. Students interested in human rights, social justice, and global citizenship can participate in our Center for Civic Engagement & Leadership and explore these issues through coursework that includes service learning projects in the Hudson River Valley and globally. The Center offers the Tarver Summer Fellows Program, in which students receive paid internships at nonprofit organizations and work in collaboration with a faculty member.

The variety of conversations taking place in Fontaine Hall makes the School of Liberal Arts a dynamic learning community. Close faculty and student relationships and interdisciplinary analysis, including team taught courses, are crucial to our work here. In a given semester, students might have the opportunity to take Religion and the Law with a political scientist and theologian, Blues Poetry with a poet and historian, or Environmental Literature with a literary scholar and a scientist.

Observing and participating in these kinds of dialogue in the classroom and on our campus sharpens our students’ awareness of the complexity of 21st-century problems and gives them a sense of the integrated solutions they might find for them. In fact, the Marist Core is designed to help our students develop the "knowledge, skills, and values" that are the hallmark of the Marist College academic experience. Moreover, a wide array of service learning, internship, and study-abroad experiences prepares our students for future employment and develops their capacity to be innovative and ethically grounded leaders.

I invite you to explore our programs further by examining the diversity of materials available on our website or by following us on Facebook. If you would like more information or have any questions, I encourage you to contact me.


Martin B. Shaffer, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Liberal Arts

Office Location: Fontaine 200
Phone: (845) 575-3000 ext. 2295


Dr. Shaffer joined the Marist College faculty as an Assistant Professor of Political Science in 1994, and he served as Chair of the Political Science Department from 2001 to 2007, overseeing a period of significant growth in that major. He was appointed Interim Dean of the School of Liberal Arts on August 1, 2007, and he began his duties as Dean on September 1, 2008. A native of New York State, Dr. Shaffer earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from LeMoyne College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany.

Dr. Shaffer teaches a variety of courses in American politics, including History of the American Presidency, Congress Today, and Scope and Methods of Political Analysis. He has team taught the American State and Urban Politics course with State Senator Stephen Saland on several occasions. Dr. Shaffer's research interests include presidential leadership, the environmental movement, and New York State politics. He has published several articles in scholarly journals, including Policy Studies Review and Presidential Studies Quarterly. Dr. Shaffer is a frequent Op-Ed writer for national and regional publications, and his articles focus on presidential and congressional elections. Dr. Shaffer is a strong proponent of experiential learning, and he was instrumental in starting the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership and the Albany Internship Experience program.