MORAGA -- For PBS NewsHour senior correspondent and noted journalist Jeffrey Brown, visiting Saint Mary's College is about much more than escaping the hectic energy of the nation's capital.

Sure, there's connecting with friends who call the Bay Area home. There's also the fact that Brown and his wife, visual artist Paula Crawford, both attended UC Berkeley and met in the East Bay.

But beyond the personal reasons, there's the lure of reaching out to students about something both Brown and Crawford care deeply about.

"Saint Mary's has a great focus on liberal arts and humanities, which is important to us," said the 57-year-old news co-anchor and creator of the online blog "Art Beat" during a break from visiting classes and talking to students as one of the college's two Woodrow Wilson Fellows.

For more than three decades, the fellows program has brought notable professionals working outside of academia to colleges across the country so that they interact with students and broaden the learning experience. Saint Mary's has participated in this program for 20 years, hosting a variety of people who give talks, visit classrooms, lecture or sit on panels during their one-week tenure. Focusing on topics such as the media, the importance of the arts and the value of a liberal arts education, Brown and Crawford are the most recent professionals who have flocked to the 151-year-old college.

Other speakers come to participate in a variety of programs. They include the annual January "Jan Term" series, during which students explore a range of highly creative course offerings to broaden their educational -- and personal -- horizons.


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Other offerings calling speakers to the bucolic campus include the college's annual Wo/men's Conference on sexism and racism. Last month's event brought famed National Park Service ranger Betty Reid Soskin and Wanda and Cephus Johnson, the mother and uncle of BART police shooting victim Oscar Grant,to the Soda Center for talks.

Saint Mary's has in recent years built up an impressive record of hosting notable and provocative speakers. They include civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, who spoke at the college in 2006 during Latino Heritage Month; political economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who visited Saint Mary's College in 2011; and journalist, food activist and educator Michael Pollan. Later this month, Carmelite nun Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix will visit the college to talk about the Syrian crisis.

Bringing such individuals onto campus is part of Saint Mary's mission, say college leaders.

"Part of what makes a liberal arts education distinctive here is coordinating what's going on in the classroom with co-curriculum events," said Stephen Woolpert, dean of the School of Liberal Arts. That means faculty will often link what's going on inside the classroom with a speaker's message or visiting fellow's appearance on campus.

"What speakers contribute to is an integrative education, one that's not just restricted to studying a particular discipline in the classroom," Woolpert said. "Given the knowledge explosion, students need to make connections among different learning experiences. It's really important they integrate what they're learning in the classroom with the co-curriculum and their own situation."