David Alfaro: The Liberal Arts Education - Fostering the 21st Century Intellectual in All of Us

Americký pojem "liberal arts" a s ním související "liberal arts college" je pro české studenty zajímající se o studium v USA často velmi nejasný. Poprosili jsme proto našeho amerického stážistu Davida, který je studentem jedné ze škol "liberal arts", konkrétně Bates College v Mainu, aby se pokusil vysvětlit, co studium na takové škole obnáší. 

What exactly is a “liberal arts” school, is the question stipulated by many students deciding where to apply and even parents debating where to ship off their students for four years. A liberal arts school involves an “approach to learning that prepares students to deal with complexity, diversity, and change at any given time of their life. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest or major,”(AAC & U 2013) in an academically conducive environment. As a senior at Bates College, a liberal arts school in New England ranked as the 19th best liberal arts school in America, I can confidently say that my liberal arts education has molded me into a well rounded critical thinker and lifelong learner, capable of tackling any problem in the workplace or out in the social landscape that we call, life.

Bates College, source: https://www.facebook.com/batescollege

A liberal arts education usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad learning in multiple disciplines, along with more in-depth study in a major of one’s choice. For instance, along with my social science major, I have delved into many disciplines along the way such as: Food & History, Rhetoric, Philosophy, Art & Visual Culture, Psychology, and even Music. The liberal arts education system provides students with almost limitless freedom and flexibility, serving to expose students to almost all disciplines. Students are encouraged to test the waters and they aren’t really expected to declare a major until your second year. The benefits of this exposure allow for overall development of knowledge outside the realm of traditional linear academia.

Bates College Students, source: source: https://www.facebook.com/batescollege

In terms of academic and social life, a liberal arts college offers a tight-knit community of ambitious thinkers alike. The small space facilitates close interaction and relationships between faculty and professors. At Bates, I have had a class with as little as 4 students but the majority of my classes are usually under 20 people and the professor always knows students by name and they work closely with students to make sure their intellectual curiosities are satisfied in and out of the classroom. The idea of having a social life in a small school might be hard to imagine, but because the school is small, the students are provided with an ideal opportunity structure to improve social outcomes. Students can easily meet most people in their dorm or house, enjoy engaging experiences with these groups, and most likely become lifelong friends with most of them.

Bates College Student, source: https://www.facebook.com/batescollege

What happens after you graduate and are finally handed a liberal arts degree? Students usually complete their degree in 4 years and upon completion, are usually involved in meaningful work within a few months. For instance at Bates, 99% of recent graduates are settled in a job, graduate school, fellowship, or internship. The alumni network is also as tight-knit as the campus itself. It is quite easy to network with recent and older graduates, who can help you land that dream job.
Granted, the liberal arts experience is not for everyone but it is definitely intended for students seeking intellectual and personal development - skills needed for all career paths.

David Alfaro
Bates '15

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