I am returning today from my 5 year college reunion, and the weekend has left me nostalgic for the wonderful experience I had at my small liberal arts school. I am a biased advocate, not just for liberal arts but for small colleges in small college towns. My time at Colgate University reinvigorated my love of learning, and the small close-knit, isolated town in upstate New York was the perfect environment to cultivate focus, passion, and community.
As Patrick Awuah explains in his TEDGlobal talk How to educate leaders? Liberal arts — the liberal arts education instills
the ability to confront problems, complex problems, and to design solutions to those problems. The ability to create is the most empowering thing that can happen to an individual.
My coursework at Colgate prepared me to be a critical thinker and a strong writer. The community empowered us to ask questions that people weren’t asking, to learn with skepticism and a critical eye.
Another strength of liberal arts is that it emphasizes the interconnectedness of our world. As Liz Coleman talks about in A call to reinvent liberal arts education,
The progression of today’s college student is to jettison every interest except one. And within that one, to continually narrow the focus, learning more and more about less and less; this, despite the evidence all around us of the interconnectedness of things.
Coleman argues that the true liberal arts education is dying, but at the root of it should be social activism and a breadth perspective.
I love this idea because it relates to my recent post about rethinking passion. Rather than narrowing down to just one thing, the liberal arts education is well-rounded, mandating that learners take courses in many different departments. As an undergraduate Psychology major, I took courses in English Literature, Astronomy, Geography, Women’s Studies, Economics, Education, and Art History. I also fulfilled a core curriculum including a course about the Middle East and the class about the fallibility of memory that inspired my love of research – Science and the Malleability of the Mind.
Best of all, as Alexandra Rice explains in her article Top 5 Reasons to Apply to a Liberal Arts College, liberal arts schools create a more cohesive community among faculty and students. Small classes invite more discussion and – at least at my school – a lack of graduate students led to more research opportunities for undergraduates. By the time I was a senior in college, I was a lab manager with three years of research experience. I developed close relationships with my professors, who opened their homes to us for the occasional dinner and some of whom I still keep in touch with today…*
More pictures below. Isn’t my alma mater beautiful?