The Value of a Liberal Arts and Sciences Education
The College of Arts and Sciences attempts to provide opportunities for our students to be engaged with outstanding faculty in a high quality liberal arts and sciences education. This type of education is defined as liberal in the sense of an education that is "liberating" - liberating the mind to think freely. One of the great challenges facing our country in the next century will be related to the type of education that our young people will receive. The increasing demands on our educational system to educate for the skills required by the information age has often resulted in an emphasis on higher education towards technical skills at the expense of the liberal arts and sciences.
However, few teenagers or young adults have crystal balls clear enough to know what will engage them ten or twenty years from now. And most of the 40- and 45-year olds wind up voting overwhelmingly that the best bet for a satisfying life is getting an education, whatever their major.
Students need to be sensitive to careers and jobs and be aware of the fact that the primary way to lead meaningful and productive lives in the world community is through work and a career. The kinds of skills necessary for that career include not only the latest technological knowledge but also the traditional skills encompassed by a liberal arts and sciences education. We in the College of Arts and Sciences believe that, as educators and as human beings. That is why we spend so much time, effort and resources to guarantee every University of La Verne student a core education in the liberal arts and science.
There is one thing that every physician, every lawyer, every engineer, every architect and every teacher in this country has in common. They all went to College. And so to a great extent everything in this country that derives from these and many other professions comes from someone in or someone in contact with someone from a College or University. One can argue that no other societal institution has had a greater impact on the growth of this country and our quality of life, than Colleges and Universities. Think about what you do during the day and reflect upon how many things you do and how many things you come in contact with that have a direct connection with a College or University, from the car you drive to food you eat to the clothes you wear and the television you watch, from your work to your leisure, from the moment you brush your teeth in the morning to the last brushing at night, it was university educated men and women and university related programs that contributed to virtually every minute aspect of our lives. We must be doing something right. Our successes surround us and allow us to live in a modern, free society.
Students who have graduated and entered into the world of business, industry, technology and education need, not only their technical skills, but also their liberal arts and sciences skills. The workplace not only now recognizes the requirements for high-tech, they also now are coming to recognize the need for high-touch. By this they mean that they need a workforce that can effectively communicate both orally and in writing. They need employees who not only understand technology and telecommunications but also interpersonal communications - how to work effectively with others on a one-to-one basis and in small and large groups. They need people who can not only fix a glitch in a computer program, they need people who are capable of identifying and analyzing problems and formulating and testing ideas, in other words they require employees who have effective problem solving and critical thinking skills. Communication, interpersonal skills, thinking and problem solving - these are part of the education obtained in the liberal arts and sciences. This is the kind of education in which the faculty in this college are dedicated to engaging our students. At the same time the faculty are also aware of the necessity for practicality in our majors and the value of experiential education. Virtually every major within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has a hands-on component, whether it be in the form of laboratory experience, field studies, internships or volunteer service activities the faculty recognize the value of learning by doing and work diligently to create these experiences for our students.
In the good college, students often get two valuable confrontations. One is with themselves and the values and standards they decide to acquire. The other is a basic discipline called thinking, which, among other things, helps one to learn not only the ideas and facts but their implications.
No one knows what the job market will be four or fourteen years from now. Today's popular fields may be tomorrow's overcrowded ones. Its hardly surprising then that studies consistently show that two-thirds of students in college change their career plans at least once, often twice, in four years. Most graduates change jobs at least once in the first five years after college.
A college that devotes itself totally and unequivocally to salable skills, sending young men and women into the world armed only with a narrow range of skills, has not properly fulfilled the duties of an institution of higher education.
Where does this leave the liberal arts? Humanity's ability to provide for economic and technical growth far outstrips our ability to predict how we, as human beings, will be capable of adjusting to this growth. Education in the liberal arts is an essential component for individual as well as national success. While as a society we are technologically successful, it is in those areas covered by a liberal arts education that we need to educate our students. Business and technology need people educated in the knowledge, skills, attitudes and characteristics of a traditionally liberally educated individual. We need individuals who show leadership, self-assurance, and the ability to work with one another. Liberally educated people think logically, critically and creatively and are able to identify, analyze and solve problems effectively. They show an appreciation for the cultural aspects of life, hold high ethical standards, as well as egalitarian, pro-science and anti-authoritarian values. Most of all a liberally educated person enjoys learning and is set upon a path of life-long learning and enjoyment that matures as part of the college experience.
The University of La Verne, with its emphasis on small classes and a professionally oriented teaching faculty, is an ideal university in which students can capitalize on the values and benefits of a liberal arts education. This relatively small private college provides a sound liberal arts education in a safe, traditional campus where teaching for the faculty holds the primary rewards.