A liberal arts education provides the intellectual scaffolding for students to learn “how to learn” in order to be successful in a variety of capacities. Unfortunately, exposure to the liberal arts in professional programs typically occurs in the form of general education distribution requirements that are not fully integrated into students’ undergraduate experience.
The Teagle Foundation launched “Liberal Arts and the Professions” in fall 2014 to support efforts to fully incorporate liberal arts education throughout the curriculum in professional undergraduate programs, with a particular emphasis on business, engineering, and nursing. Such curricular integration will not only have a positive effect on how students in professional fields pursue their future work, but will also enrich the liberal arts curriculum itself with perspectives that merit sharing beyond the community of professional practitioners.
This initiative challenges the prevailing mode of professional preparation by asking: How can institutions fully integrate and embed the liberal arts into undergraduate preparation for the professions? The Teagle Foundation welcomes the participation of a diverse array of institutions–community colleges, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive and research universities–committed to moving the liberal arts from the periphery to the center of the curriculum. We seek to support robust collaborative relationships among faculty from the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and the professions to co-design and deliver curricula in financially sustainable ways. We encourage grantees to consider how they could integrate the liberal arts into existing course requirements, rather than adding additional credits, to be cognizant of time to degree and how certain majors, such as engineering and nursing, have demanding credit loads in line with expectations for accreditation or licensure. We pay special attention to the infusion of liberal arts content and subject matter expertise, rather than just skills and competencies, and prioritize ambitious curricular redesign efforts in upper division coursework for the major.
As of fall 2018, the Liberal Arts and the Professions initiative has supported curricular reform efforts at over 35 institutions. Participating faculty have redesigned and cross-registered courses, developed liberal arts course modules, and developed minors and certificates to better link the liberal arts to professional programs of study. A subset of grantees focused on embedding the liberal arts in business education gathered for a convening in April 2017 to reflect on lessons learned to date; major themes that emerged from the discussion is available here.