THE VALUE OF LIBERAL STUDIES IN TODAY'S WORLD
In today's world, or more precisely, in today's business world of global transactions, fast-paced change, and floods of information... the ability to think critically and contextually about a wide range of issues is both practical and vital.
Professional and Personal Success
The Master of Liberal Studies' attributes its success to a broad-based, multidisciplinary curriculum that encourages (to use a current business phrase) "thinking outside of the box." A greater understanding of cultures and values, an expanded historical and geographical context in which to consider current issues, the exchange of viewpoints in a diverse classroom filled with professional adults from all walks of life -- this is learning that is of the greatest use, in the workplace as well as in our private lives.
Two kinds of learning touch and diverge, keeping the intellect braced to act and conditioned to endure. Vertical learning takes off straight up, cutting a narrow, precise slice through the particular. The specialist operates on this vertical axis, using professional training to transport thought beyond the imaginable. Horizontal learning assumes a broader approach, addressing a cross section of knowledge and blending information from different fields to reach new levels of understanding.
Few would debate that technological advances have done much to open exciting possibilities for a better future. Yet specialized knowledge allows only a moment for reflection before it changes shape to reappear transformed and unfamiliar. Only those with a capacity to take a long look into all that has passed will possess the vision to imagine a future that stretches beyond the next innovation.
Find Meaning in the Human Experience
What is justice? What deserves to be defended? Why do civilizations flourish? What are we to value?
Our students speak of their experience in this program as truly transformative. A communications entrepreneur taking a course on the relationships between chaos theory, plate tectonics, and evolutionary biology writes a note to the director of his program exclaiming that "there's so much knowledge here, and it's so practical." A mortgage banker takes a class which explores the changing images of the universe from Plato to Kepler. She considers the idea that science is largely a social construct and that numbers and formulas which seem to be derived strictly from rational, "scientific" processes are dependent upon theology and a host of other cultural constructs as well. Suddenly she begins to wonder how the numbers in mortgage tables got there, what cultural "norms" they're dependent on, and her master's project explores fundamental ways to alter practices that have upheld the racial and class biases she found "surrounding" mortgage figures. It is helping the way she works, and her industry works, day by day, practically. . . . "What struck me," wrote the reviewer after meeting with several students, "was the way that each one of them, while rejecting further professional education, was able to bring insights gleaned from liberal studies back to their workplace."
Business does not operate in a vacuum. It operates within history and within culture and is almost completely shaped those forces. Likewise, a business enterprise is no more than the individuals who, as leaders, workers, and consumers, shape its path. By integrating the humanities into the world of commerce, both individuals and businesses not only prosper but make a contribution to the creation of a better, more thoughtful future.
Postal Mail: Master of Liberal Studies, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750253, Dallas, TX 75275-0253