Many students, as well as parents, are wondering what will become of the Liberal Arts degree. Some are questioning if the benefits of a liberal arts education are still relevant in today’s changing society. Many argue that a college education should be for those focusing their pursuits in the “STEM” majors: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
While that may be up for debate, there has been an effort by defenders of the Arts and Humanities to establish and improve upon the position of the Liberal Arts in the twenty-first century.
In an effort to emphasize a crucial part of this education, Wheaton College has founded the Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities (WIIH).
Officially inaugurated on April 1, the Institute is aimed towards expanding student’s academic learning through a wide range of guest speakers and events. The Institute’s mission statement, located on the WIIH website, explains that “Students…are given the opportunity to interact with distinguished guests in a variety of settings…[stepping] out of their comfort zones as they employ their knowledge and test it with guests.”
Every year, two professors will be in charge of creating and facilitating a theme that will be explored for that year. This exploration will include a variety of events and opportunities, such as film series, panels, guest lecturers, professors, conferences and more. The two directing professors will teach two courses that focus and integrate the theme of the Institute.
This program will be beneficial to both students and faculty. Students will be able to take the academic skills they have been learning in the classroom and apply them to professional relationships with professors and guests.
This year, the two co-directors are Professors Yuen-Gen Liang and Touba Ghadessi, respectively representing the disciplines of History and Art History. In addition to Liang and Ghadessi, fourteen students from nine disciplines helped in the founding of the WIIH. The first year theme for WIIH is titled “The Humanities Give Back: The Humanities in Professional Fields.” The purpose of the theme is to “showcase the real benefits of infusing professional fields with the humanities.”
“The humanities lead to practical skills in the professional world,” the WIIH website reads. “The intellectual flexibility young adults gain through a humanistic Liberal Arts education prepares them for leadership roles in the twenty-first century.”
This message will be central to the Institute’s events, and has already made an appearance in the first event back in February. That talk featured four medical professionals, from a wide array of specialties, who were invited to a forum to discuss the influence that Liberal Arts and Humanities have in the medical field.
The WIIH looks to provide a more engaged and dynamic liberal arts at Wheaton; keep up with it on their website, which provides more information, as well as upcoming events scheduled.