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Message from Ken Wolf,
Interim Dean of Humanistic Studies

Back to Liberal Arts Resource Page

or the past year Murray State University has been grappling with the dilemma of how to increase enrollment while maintaining high quality programs in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. One response to this dilemma has been the suggestion by several department chairs that we develop a new interdisciplinary major in Liberal Arts or Liberal Studies.  Chairpersons in the College of Humanistic Studies discussed this issue at our fall planning retreat and were in agreement that we ought to develop such a major, which should include some courses and options in the Fine Arts and Sciences as well as in the traditional Humanities and Social Studies.

The purpose of this web site is to extend this discussion to faculty in our college and beyond in order to secure as many ideas as possible before the chairs and I develop a proposal for a Liberal Arts major and/or area and/or minor. The Provost is supportive of this effort as well.  A plan needs to be developed soon so that it can be sent through the normal committees to the Academic Council as soon as possible, certainly this academic year. In short, we need your ideas NOW!

One of the conditions for any new Liberal Arts or Liberal Studies program is that it not require additional faculty positions, and that it not involve the addition of many new courses.  Another ground rule for this effort is that any such program not "steal students" from current majors but instead offer a new option to students, especially to those who have multiple interests and multiple intelligences. With our current nationally recognized University Studies program, we advertise that students can come here and get a "private school education at a public school cost." This liberal arts major is an extension of that idea, since it would involve, among other things an increase in the number of University Studies courses taken by students in Liberal Arts.  This program can also provide a useful career and public relations focus for all of the majors in the college. By selling the liberal arts to students, parents, and employers, we are helping graduates in all of our individual disciplines. A Liberal Arts major is also offered at many schools in the United States. In the University of California system, for example, students planning to teach at the Elementary level are required to take such a major.

Please contribute your ideas and reactions to this forum so that we can have a college-wide discussion.  I will check the forum frequently to join in the conversation. As you look at the proposal for a Liberal Arts major on this site, and as you review some of the other pages (especially the articles in the Liberal Arts Reading Room) please consider the following questions that have been raised by various department chairs.

  • What should be the curricular configuration of a Liberal Arts major, minor,or area?  We could have two 18 hr areas, plus a 21 hour minor; two 30 hour major areas; or three 18 hour areas with no minor possible.  Should we have a maximum  of  15 18 hours in any one area of concentration? You get the idea.
  • How do we sell this proposal to students? (We want strong students, not those who might use this as a "safety net" became they can't meet the requirement of a History, Philosophy, or Art major?) What should this program be named?  Is Liberal Arts or Liberal Studies OK, or too "old fashioned"?
  • Should we have a senior thesis in this major?  Should we let students design thematic liberal arts majors, such as one in multicultural studies or gender studies?

As we prepare to join with colleagues in another college to create a new center for the Humanities and Fine Arts at Murray State University, it is vital that we all consider the value of the traditional liberal arts, two thirds of which (and 70% of University Studies requirements) will be in our new college next year.  This web site is offered as an opportunity for all of us to join in the sort of stimulating discussion that attracted us all to this profession in the first place.  Let's enjoy a fruitful conversation.


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