The 'liberal arts' and the benefits of a liberal arts college

Kent Barnds
Kent Barnds
December 5, 2023

I love the question "What can a liberal arts college offer my student?”

It’s a great question because parents love the answer: liberal arts colleges provide the learning experiences that produce well-rounded, deeply skilled citizens ready for success in their chosen career while making meaning of life.

It has nothing to do with the meaning most of us associate with the words “liberal” and “arts.”

Students from every political and socioeconomic background excel at a liberal arts college like Augustana. The "liberal" in this case derives from the Latin "liberalis" associated with the meaning of "freedom." The original "artes" simply means "subjects of study." A liberal arts education offers an expansive intellectual freedom in all kinds of classes and academic disciplines.

If you were to ask me, I would tell you that a liberal arts education is a super-power. It develops the professional skills, ethical citizenship and independent judgment that every employer hopes to attract in their employees and leaders.

At the end of four years, your graduate (who we really hope will be one of our Loyal Vikings) will have the superpower to make sense of complex information, and the independent thought and judgment to make wise decisions. I describe it as a breadth of education that allows graduates to see the world not in portrait mode, but in panoramic mode.

Students who choose liberal arts colleges: 

  • Develop as critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers
  • Solve the new problems they discover
  • Follow their curiosity
  • Value diversity in all its forms
  • Become effective, persuasive communicators
  • Develop as ethical citizens

In "Beyond the University," Michael Roth wrote that Benjamin Franklin thought “the awakening of curiosity, learning to learn, was at the core of liberal education.” That’s a pretty good way to think about it.

That’s an education that opens up the future for every graduate, in any field of study and every career. It’s what I hope for my own children.

Kent Barnds
Kent Barnds
Executive Vice President for Strategy and Innovation