Into the liberal arts? How about a side of Plato, a dash of Monet and a slice of Avogadro’s number with that?
If President Donna E. Shalala’s new vision is materialized, students enrolled in liberal arts programs will have to adhere to new requirements set forth by the University to strengthen the liberal arts core curriculum.
“We need to advertise the importance of the core requirements,” said James Wyche, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “There has to be a better job of articulating it.”
According to President Shalala, plans to strengthen the liberal arts core curriculum include investments in the arts and sciences, increasing course choices and providing more interdisciplinary study opportunities to study abroad and in such cities as Washington, D.C. and New York.
“Students need proper balance,” Shalala said.
According to Wyche, additional resources will be placed toward faculty and will include acquiring more regular personnel to teach undergraduates. For Wyche, gauging the success of a more liberal arts-oriented core is qualitative, not quantitative.
“Ideally, each student should have a liberal sprinkling in their course load and a variety of intellectual thought,” Wyche said. “Having more freedom in the curriculum allows students to be unencumbered.”
“There is a consensus [among the administration] to recruit students to make well-informed decisions,” Whyche said.
Many students wonder how studying an array of liberal arts courses will benefit all of those enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The best physicians are those trained in the humanities,” Wyche said. “They have a more liberal interpretation to human responses.”
Mathematics professor Marta Alpar shares a similar view that emphasizes the relevance and importance of incorporating the liberal arts to all majors.
“It is an aim to present math as something to apply to everyday life,” she said. “It is important to emphasize logical thinking [and] reasoning.”
Philosophy professor Charles Siewert agrees.
“A good education in philosophy develops one’s ability to think independently, articulately and logically; to reason fairly; and judge un-dogmatically,” Siewert said. “It does this by teaching one to confront far-reaching questions that touch on common experience, art, politics and every branch of inquiry and to understand some deep influential currents in human culture.”
“The communication and analytical skills philosophy develops are life-enriching and valuable in a wide variety of occupations,” Siewert continued. “To judge by the superior performance of philosophy majors on exams like the LSAT and MCAT, philosophy provides, in fact, a particularly good preparation for professional careers outside of teaching.”
According to administration, with an emphasis on curricular liberty, a variety of academic majors and minors, including foreign language program opportunities, could increase both in terms of enrollment and in terms of class availability.
“That would be great,” said sophomore Margaret Estevez, who wanted to take German during the fall semester, but was unable to because of scheduling difficulties. “Increasing language classes is a terrific benefit and opportunity to any student of any discipline,” she said.
Wyche says that, although it may take some time to see the introduction of new majors, these improvements will certainly spawn new emphasis to give much broader choices to students.
President Shalala is confident that this endeavor will yield success.
“Great universities have great arts and sciences cores,” Shalala said. “We’re going to make ours even better.”
Christina Guzman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.