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Curriculum Overview

Designing a Degree…Your Way

Each Liberal Studies  degree program is structured around the following eight broad subject categories based on Ernest Boyer’s models of study. LIS majors choose courses from each of the categories that interest them.

LIS Curriculum

Identity: the Search for Meaning

Work: the Value of Vocation

Nature: Ecology of the Planet

Institutions: the Social Web

Language: the Crucial Connection

Heritage: the Living Past

Art: the Aesthetic Dimension

Tools: the Tools and Skills

Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton University Press.

Identity: the Search for Meaning

Ultimately, the aim of common learning is the understanding of oneself and a capacity for sound judgment. Knowledge is significant when it shows us who we are as individuals and citizens, and touches the hopes and fears that make each of us both unique beings and a part of corporate humanity. Sound judgment at its best brings purpose and meaning to human lives.

Who am I? What is the purpose of life? What are my obligations to others, and what are theirs to me? The answers to these questions are notoriously elusive, but the questions are impossible to avoid. They are an essential part of an integrated core, a part of the search for identity and the quest for meaning. (Boyer 98)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Work: the Value of Vocation

Except for a handful of individuals, we cannot choose not to work. Everything we know about society suggests that work choices are exceedingly important in shaping the values and social relations of a time.

The characteristics of a culture can, in fact, be defined by looking at work: who works; what work is valued; how it is rewarded; how do people use their leisure time? In an era when “rampant careerism” is alleged in every quarter, it is important for colleges to help students to consider the universal experiences of producing and consuming, and put their work in larger context. (Boyer 97-98)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Nature: Ecology of the Planet

All forms of life on the planet Earth are interlocked. No core of learning is complete without introducing students to the ordered yet symbiotic nature of the universe. For this discovery, science is the key. It is through science that students explore the elegant underlying patterns of the natural world and begin to understand that all elements of nature are related.

Beyond the processes of nature, common learning also must include a study of how science and technology are joined and consider the ethical and social issues that have resulted from this merger. (Boyer 96)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Institutions: the Social Web

Institutions make up the social fabric of life. We are born into institutions, we pass much of our lives in them, and institutions are involved when we die. No integrated core has been successful if it has not acquainted students with the major institutions – the family, the church, and legislative and judicial bodies, for example – that make up our world.

The curriculum we have in mind would look at the characteristics of institutions: how they come into being, grow strong, become oppressive or weak, and sometimes fail. The successful approach to learning will always ask what institutions have to do with us, how we are influenced by them, and how we can direct our institutions toward constructive ends. (Boyer 95)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Language: the Crucial Connection

The sending and receiving of sophisticated messages sets human beings apart from all other forms of life. As humans, we take infinite pains to reflect on and interpret our experiences. We capture feelings and ideas with symbols and send them to others through a process we call language.

Language, in its many manifestations, is at the heart of understanding who we are and what we might become. What are the theories of the origins of language? How do symbol systems shape the values of a culture? How has language, through great literature, enriched our lives and enlarged our vision? What are the possibilities and problems introduced by the information revolution?

Learning about the power of language in the human experience and becoming proficient in more than one language are, we believe, essential aspects of the integrated core. (Boyer 92-93)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Heritage: the Living Past

The human species uniquely has the capacity to recall the past and anticipate the future. Through these remembrances and anticipations today’s reality is shaped.

In an age when planned obsolescence seems to make everything but the fleeting moment remote and irrelevant, the study of history can strengthen awareness of tradition, of heritage, and of meaning beyond the present—without which there is no culture.

It is imperative that all students learn about the women and men and the events and ideas that have contributed consequentially to our own history and to other cultures, too. (Boyer 94)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Art: the Aesthetic Dimension

There are human experiences that defy the power of words to describe them. To express our most intimate, most profoundly moving feelings and ideas, we use a more sensitive, subtle language we call the arts.

Music, dance, and the visual arts are no longer just desirable; they are essential. And the integrated core should reveal how these symbol systems have, in the past, affirmed our humanity and illustrate how they remain relevant today.

Students need to understand the unique ability of the arts to affirm and dignify our lives and remain the means by which the quality of a civilization can be measured. (Boyer 93-94)

Learning opportunities to explore this category

Tools: the Tools and Skills

The Tools category is not one of the seven areas suggested by Boyer. We have included it because certain baccalaureate-level learning needs do not easily fit into an interdisciplinary model of general education.

Courses and other learning experiences involving math, statistics, research methods, computer skills, library research, and other useful knowledge fall into this group.

Learning opportunities to explore this category

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