Scientific and technological advances change the way we live and relate to the world; they also influence the means by which a liberal arts education is constructed. “In the classic tradition,” said Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza, “training in the seven liberal arts had the goal of freeing an individual—intellectually and spiritually—to make reasoned and virtuous choices in his or her life. In our time, the notion of seven disciplines as the basis for an education no longer applies. Today’s liberal arts education needs to be redesigned to accommodate a world in which biology inevitably shades into ethics, literature into history, and politics into economics.” Said Charles B. Seelig Professor of Philosophy Richard Kearney, “The interdisciplinary approach to the liberal arts cultivates the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis—educating the whole person.”
Kearney speaks as a member of the planning committee for the Institute for Liberal Arts (ILA), a new resource at Boston College that will focus faculty attention, imagination, and energy on liberal education. “You can think of the ILA as an incubator of ideas, courses, and programs. It will be as strong and as ambitious as the faculty can make it,” said Garza.
Patricia DeLeeuw, vice provost for faculties and chair of the ILA committee, offered this example of how the institute will work. “Suppose a faculty member in English decided that teaching the urban novel, which is a very rich vein of literature, was just not sufficient for conveying the complexity of the cities in which our students will be citizens and contributors to life at all levels. That faculty member might come to the ILA with the intention of developing a course on the culture of cities. Perhaps we would seek English, history, and political science faculty to co-teach it, invite the participation of architects, urban planners, and elected officials, and use the great film and art and criticism that’s been developed around urban life, from Juvenal to Don DeLillo.”
Moreover, said DeLeeuw, the course, if successful, might then become a program, offering students internships, undergraduate theses, and the opportunity to publish a journal in urban studies or develop an art exhibit on the theme of cities. “Independence of mind and confidence in your ability to understand and to make your way is what the liberal arts are about,” said DeLeeuw. “That’s what we want our students to learn.”
also in development
- Humanities Colloquium
- Center for Undergraduate Advising