From the Chronicle: Liberal Arts and Sciences Need Each Other

16 Nov

In their co-authored article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mary Crane and Thomas Chiles (professor of English and chairman of the biology department at Boston College, respectively) write about their responsibility to educate their students, “who will form the educated public of tomorrow”:

It’s up to us to ensure that they receive a liberal-arts education that provides them with the skills to critically evaluate information content, its sources, and its relevance. And while the discussion, reading, and thought that are the hallmarks of the humanities are necessary preludes to effective action, students of the liberal arts will be ill-equipped to deal with our complex world without a firm grounding in statistics, computer science, knowledge of the scientific method, and technological literacy.

Crane and Chiles highlight some of the barriers between faculty in the liberal arts and sciences: competition (real and perceived) for resources, balancing teaching and researching workloads, as well as the insular nature of departments and disciplines. But the authors argue for working through these barriers and collaborating across the disciplines:

In our environmentally and economically challenged, highly technological world, it is crucial that we improve our ability to understand and critically evaluate scientific evidence and arguments. One way to do so is through partnerships between faculty in the natural sciences and faculty from disciplines like journalism, economics, sociology, political science, and philosophy. Together they can develop ways to communicate knowledge about technology and the sciences in an accessible and compelling manner, and to explain the broader relevance of scientific discovery to society.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration among faculty and students is crucial to higher education. Nazareth College’s undergraduate curriculum requires students–regardless of major or discipline–to take a variety of courses in both the liberal arts and sciences. A Nazareth communication and rhetoric major will study biology and math in addition to taking English classes. Likewise, a chemistry major will often take courses from the religious studies and history departments.

“There are some in the public who question the value of a general liberal arts and sciences education,” says Daan Braveman, president of Nazareth College. “In my view, such an educational foundation is more important than ever because we live in a rapidly changing and truly global environment.” Braveman continues:

A liberal arts and sciences education focuses on the knowledge, skills, and values that are valuable in preparing students for their life and for whatever careers they might pursue. The knowledge is broad-based and the skills are transferable. It also focuses on values and inspires dedication to the ideal of service to communities. In short, such an education prepares students for making a life and making a living, especially in the ever-changing world that lies ahead.

This commitment to a comprehensive, interdisciplinary education for students is achieved every day through the curricula offered by Nazareth’s College of Arts and Sciences as well as its Schools of Health and Human Services, Education, and Management. To learn more about how the College is preparing the next generation of successful professionals and engaged citizens, visit

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