I don’t think I started to hear the words “liberal arts” until I was in high school and honestly, I had no idea what they meant. As far as I knew, it had something to do with higher education, but I did not give it much thought. In fact, when thinking about college, my understanding was that I would have to study for a specific career or profession in order to find a job. The path seemed clear and my next steps were obvious. Many years later, I can admit how wrong I was. Fast-forward to commencement in 2014, I was graduating a strong believer in the liberal arts. I embraced the broad curriculum, the education beyond a pre-professional education, and I noticed how my ideas about the liberal arts itself had evolved -a testament to the liberal arts education.
The phrase “liberal arts” itself refers to both freedom and practice. It is that that teaches us the skills and ideas needed to be actively engaged in civic and political life. It teaches us that we can develop the tools necessary to question what is at hand instead of learning it just for the sake of learning. Some of the most transformative moments of my undergraduate career include my courses like Black American politics, Gender and Politics, and really anything encompassing history, sociology, and social justice. The wide range of topics I read about and later wrote about for each of my courses, started to transform not only who I was, but how I thought. I was able to enhance and expand my critical thinking skills as well as by ability synthesize the information I was learning. To this day, I believe I am better off because my sense of self, sense of perspective, and sense of the liberal arts transformed in a matter of a few years.
At Tufts, a liberal arts education exposes students to the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, and the study of languages, while still allowing for student agency and personal curiosity to guide course selection. In four years, students can dive deeper into existing interests, learn about new areas of study they might not have had the exposure to in high school, and combine new areas of interest. A school that values liberal arts is a place where you can find courses like, “Latin Prose”, “Global Justice”, “Climate Change Ethics”, “Transnational Politics of Forced Migration”, “Sociology of Latinxs” and much more (and yes, all those courses are offered this coming Fall 2021). And it is in these spaces, where the value of a liberal arts education will be seen in your small classroom setting that is likely discussion-based, where you are expected to learn from and with your peers instead of only listening to a lecture. This can all be done while establishing relationships with faculty members who can ultimately become mentors. It is important to not overlook the importance of the learning environment in a liberal arts setting. Ultimately, to be in a space that encourages you to learn how to think instead of learning what to think is the foundation of a liberal arts education.
When I look back to my early perceptions of what it meant to be in a liberal arts setting, I know I was wrong. I had not considered how learning from one another meant that I was developing a sense of empathy and I was learning to view the world from different perspectives as opposed to just my own. I learned that the range of professional opportunities will be available and likely through a variety of different industries because the foundation of a liberal arts education sets you up for unique pathways both professionally and academically. If you need more convincing, check out our student outcomes page.