Forging a 21st-century liberal arts education

Forging a 21st-century liberal arts education

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At a time when many colleges have abandoned the liberal arts, I am proud that Lycoming College remains strongly rooted in this venerable educational tradition. We continue to expect our students to complete requirements that expose them to the breadth of human knowledge, and we still seek to instill a love of learning and develop a capacity for critical inquiry. At the same time the faculty have recognized that we must build upon these core principles and craft an exemplary liberal arts education for the 21st century.

Lycoming’s vision for a 21st-century liberal arts education combines the intellectual prowess of the traditional liberal arts with the power of experiential learning. Lycoming graduates will continue to develop critical thinking skills, cross-cultural understanding and strong communication skills through exposure to our distribution and major requirements. But a new curricular emphasis on enhanced academic experiences — experiences that include internships, study abroad and research with faculty — will also hone, deepen and test the knowledge acquired through the traditional classroom.

Kaitlyn Hipple’s ’18 academic program illustrates the power of combining classroom learning with enhanced academic experiences. Kaitlyn discovered her intellectual passion in a Spanish class taught by Professor Sandy Kingery, and was invited by Dr. Kingery to partner in translating a novel by an award-winning Mexican author. When asked about the impact of this Mellon Foundation funded summer fellowship, Kaitlyn responds, “When people ask me about my work with Sandy, my immediate response is that she changed my life.” Kaitlyn is now wrapping up a fall semester spent studying in Madrid, Spain, and she summarizes the power of that experience by saying, “I believe that studying abroad makes you not only aware of the culture that you visit, but sheds light on your own culture in a way that no other experience can.”

To facilitate and coordinate this emphasis on experiential learning, this fall we opened the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences (CEAE). Led by Susan Ross, Ph.D., associate provost and professor of sociology, the CEAE focuses on global education, internships and student-faculty research collaboration. It helps students put skills they have learned in the classroom into direct practice and understand how broad concepts explored in classes can be tailored to the unique practices of particular businesses, individuals and communities around the world.

In building an education for the 21st century, we are also making investments in new academic programs that explore some of the most important questions of the new century. The faculty is expected to approve new majors in neuroscience and Latin American archaeology that will be available in the fall of 2017. Minors in energy studies will also be introduced in the fall. In addition, we are recruiting a chair in entrepreneurship to develop a programmatic focus that will be available to students in all majors. Finally, we will consider the idea of moving from an environmental sciences minor to a major.

Taken together, this set of academic initiatives arguably will position Lycoming as a place that explores the most salient questions of the 21st century. How does the human brain work? What can we learn about our multicultural society by understanding the story of Mesoamerica? What are the implications of the choices that we make about energy? How does innovation occur and how do we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit? What is the future of humankind and the environment that we inhabit?

Building this 21st-century liberal arts education is one priority of the Campaign for a Greater Lycoming. In the language of the Campaign, we are “Creating the Coveted Degree of the Future.” Learn more about how you can support this effort at http://campaign.lycoming.edu/.