Variation in studies with a liberal arts education

Six weeks of school fundamentally changed me as a person.


Sofia Pela

Learning here feels different in the best way.

Annie Johnson, Staff Writer

I have never seen a college take the values of a liberal arts education more seriously than Westmont. The significant number of general education requirements and the large variety of major programs clearly indicate that by graduation day, Westmont students will be well-versed in not only their major specifications but in all primary subjects of academia. Before coming to Westmont, I had conversations with many of my high school classmates about how they feel pressured to pursue a “practical” major through a hyper-focused track, as opposed to studying a subject that genuinely interests them.

A liberal arts education does not allow for this single discipline-centered education because of the specification to branch out from one’s choice in major through degree and general education requirements. Although an education centered solely around one’s discipline can be beneficial for one’s career, a liberal arts education helps form well-rounded people in both their careers and social lives.

Exposure to diverse subjects in a college environment helps students obtain a basic understanding and appreciation for concepts that would not have otherwise been learned. As a student on the English major track, the thought of fulfilling course requirements for the physical and life sciences curriculum initially made me nervous. As someone who has always performed better in subjects centered around arts and humanities, I was dreading the prospects of STEM-based courses before I had even registered for classes last May. However, I reminded myself that these courses should be viewed as an opportunity to study subjects I know very little about in an environment created for educational exploration. With this mindset, I found a course that I believed best fit my academic pursuits while still forcing me out of my arts and humanities comfort zone.

Along with the educational value of liberal arts teaching, the emphasis on studying a wide variety of subjects helps students in their social and cultural education. Without studying humanities and social sciences, many people lack sufficient knowledge on historical and modern societal issues. This past election year, the importance of a basic understanding of social sciences became increasingly obvious. Courses focused on social sciences encourage students to become better-informed voters and members of society. This became clear to me last semester after taking a microeconomics course, as a result of which I am able to better understand the impact of many current events today. Without the addition of these course requirements, it would be difficult to form intelligent opinions on current social and political issues. Similarly, without experience in the comfortable and encouraging environment of a Westmont classroom, I would not have learned or practiced the skills necessary to rationally voice these views.

One particularly valuable general education category here is the “Thinking Globally” GE. This requirement encourages students to study other cultures in a classroom setting or through study abroad programs. These courses allow students to consume content from other cultures that very few people would be exposed to otherwise. By encouraging students to dive deeper into a foreign culture, Westmont’s liberal arts educational values ensure that graduates leave better educated in a social and global sense.

This semester, I am enrolled in an African literature course that fulfills this vital Thinking Globally Requirement and, despite being only six weeks into the semester, I can already see how this class greatly impacts my perception of African culture and my worldview.

The general education requirement has allowed me to study content that is different from the general information I was taught in the past. Because of the course, I have the opportunity to read about people’s perceptions and experiences and have developed a more empathetic and informed view of cultures other than my own. I have been exposed to an entirely new group of accomplished writers, focused on content and issues I had not been properly introduced to before this semester.

Without taking African Literature, I would have continued to consume and accept the inaccurate, Western interpretation of African countries and culture. Because of how much this course has influenced my worldview, I believe that the Thinking Globally requirement is one of the most important and meaningful prerequisites in forming socially and globally intelligent students.

The liberal arts education and large number of general education requirements I have participated in in the past two semesters has helped form me into a more adaptable and socially educated person.


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