What is Liberal Arts Education?

Lena Welch
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences

A liberal arts education celebrates what it means to be fully, wonderfully human as God created us to be.   Some institutions primarily prepare people for a particular job or career path; I maintain we are called to be more than a job.   We are called to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs to see Christ modeled in relationships, art, music, theatre, literature, science, media, counseling, social work, criminal justice, healthy living—the list goes on and on.   A liberal arts education prepares people to influence the world around them, (again) regardless of academic major or program of study.   

Tim Green
Dean, School of Theology and Christian Ministry

Because the people of God have always understood God as creator and the author of all wisdom, education within the Christian context seeks to explore every aspect of the wisdom of God as it is revealed not only in scripture but in every aspect of the human journey, from the natural sciences to the creative works of literature, art, and speech, from human history to human relationships. This liberal arts approach to education is essential the Christian testimony that all of life belongs to God not simply a compartmentalized life of spirituality. Even more, liberal arts at its best celebrates that the human being is not merely a work machine. Humans are more than jobs and careers, widgets in the assembly line of human productivity. Made in the image of God, human beings are creative, imaginative, curious, inventing creatures—a liberal arts education celebrates, teaches, and embodies the Christian testimony of humanity as the very image of God.

Suzie Harris
Dean, School of Education

In a liberal arts education, a broad range of knowledge is amassed.  A liberal arts education provides an individual the basic knowledge to be an educated citizen.  Many school mission statements include the phrase “…to produce an educated, productive citizen…”  Even though a teacher education candidate may choose to specialize in a particular discipline, it is imperative the professionals (teacher education graduates) who are developing the educated, productive citizens must possess a rich amount of information to share with their students.  Possessing the knowledge and skills are two facets of a strong liberal arts education.  The third facet, spiritual development, is equally, if not, more crucial to a well-rounded, balanced liberal arts education to be prepared to successful in all endeavors.  

Jim Hiatt
Dean, School of Business and Technology

A liberal arts education provides foundational knowledge and skills necessary for the understanding of, and advancement in, all fields of study.  It provides context, perspective, and depth of comprehension.  It allows for connections to be made between academic disciplines that would not likely happen otherwise.  These connections can not only lead to greater understanding on the part of students but may contribute meaningfully to the body of all knowledge and to the benefit of mankind as a whole.  Beyond serving as a launching pad for individual achievement and the possible betterment of the human race, a liberal arts education enhances the quality of individual students’ lives.  They can understand literary and historical references that can provide context and result in better judgment.  They can appreciate art and music as well as the talent and dedication necessary to bring about such works.  They can critique current political events and engage in dialog with fellow citizens to become a better electorate and more influential climate shapers.  They can comprehend the advances in science and technology and are able to use such knowledge not only for their personal benefits but for benefit others around them as well.  To summarize, a liberal arts education is very much a part of a holistic education as addressed in the question above and certainly provides potential to all students for a more comprehensive understanding of all creation and the interaction of all its moving parts!