Students in classroom

Extending our liberal arts core

Emory has something that many research universities are unable to claim -- a strong and visible liberal arts core with a liberal arts presence in every school and college, the residential experience, student organizations, and beyond. "The liberal arts get at the essence of what we are at Emory," says Provost Claire Sterk. "They are not just one part of the university but a thread that is woven throughout the community."

Still, despite Emory's strong interest in offering students a liberal education, barriers exist to a full integration of the liberal arts in Emory's curriculum. This is one of the triggers that prompted Sterk to charge the Commission on Liberal Arts (CoLA) last August to discover how best to nurture an intellectual climate for the liberal arts at Emory.

A key barrier, it turns out, is infrastructure. More specifically, we lack a permeable structure so that faculty can teach cross-disciplinary courses without worrying about which unit gets credit for the teaching and where the tuition flows. "First we have to fix the infrastructure impediments. That will allow us to easily teach across units, encourage flexible teaching modules, and offer variable-credit courses," says CoLA leader Robyn Fivush.

While some of CoLA's work is focused on very specific items, such as creating a university-wide database of current liberal arts activities, it also is exploring the visionary. One committee is considering a yearlong capstone experience for undergraduates that would bring scholarship, creativity, and residential life to bear on a theme such as health care disparities in Atlanta.

Currently, Fivush and co-leaders Deb Bruner and Karen Stolley are working with faculty to refine recommendations in the areas of instruction, innovation, and integration. Look for a summary of their full report in the fall semester at www.liberalartsforward.com.