Liberal Arts Core

What are the liberal arts?

What exactly are the liberal arts? What makes a liberal arts education distinct? These two questions USF students should consider and be able to answer by the time they are juniors, no matter their major. On the one hand, you might think of the liberal arts as being a celebration of God’s majestically creative mind. On the other hand, from a more earthly perspective, the liberal arts comprise the educational core of liberal arts colleges and universities, such as USF. The liberal arts have been around a long time, about 1000 years, and originally, there were seven: grammar, rhetoric, and logic (called The Trivium) and arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (called The Quadrivium). These were the arts—the disciplines—around which the first universities were built. They represented the core of learning. They were liberal in that they were free arts, free from the constraints of training. Students pursued them purely for the sake of knowledge, not to train for an occupation. Today, a liberal arts core, such as the one at USF, consists of more arts and contributes to a student’s preparation for a career, but the goal is the same as it has been for hundreds of years: to foster versatile, creative, independent thinkers who have an awareness of and appreciation for the interrelatedness of all the arts and disciplines.

What are the liberal arts core requirements?

The liberal arts core requirements for the bachelor’s degree are designed to help students develop basic competencies, knowledge, and values that are characteristic of maturing, educated Christians. Requirements in the liberal arts core curriculum are intended to ensure that graduates are presented opportunity to become proficient in basic skills necessary for personal and career success. As a result, the liberal arts core curriculum focuses on developing competency in speaking, and writing, computer literacy, and facility in computation.

Beyond these things, The liberal arts core curriculum at the University of Sioux Falls is grounded in the liberal arts tradition that values the development of students as individuals and citizens, rather than simply as workers or professionals, or even as scholars. Toward these ends, all students are required to take courses in communication and computer science and a specially- designated critical thinking course to establish basic proficiencies.

In addition, all students are required to complete a two semester sequence called Writing and Intellectual Traditions that is intended to help students become familiar with ideas, themes, and texts that have influenced Western culture. The courses are designed to develop competency in writing with force and grace. All students must also take a course that introduces the content and teachings of the Bible and another theology course that introduces the major doctrines of historic Christianity. Acquaintance with great texts is deepened through the requirement of an introductory literature course.

To encourage all students to develop an appreciation for the visual and performing arts, an introductory course in art, music, or theatre is required in addition to a participative experience in one of these creative arts. Science plays a dominant role in the world; therefore all students are expected to develop a familiarity with the scientific method and with basic concepts in one of the natural sciences. A course in mathematics is required because of its crucial importance to science and many human enterprises that require an analytical and quantitative understanding of the world around us.

Because people are relational beings shaped by, and likewise, shaping the social environment in which they live, three courses in the social sciences are required. Out of concern for helping individuals become participative and responsible citizens, at least one of the social science courses must be in economics or government. Additionally, students must also take a course that raises awareness of the social and cultural diversity of the world. Finally, all students are required to take a “wellness” course. Such a course addresses the wholeness and integration of the physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional aspects of life, thereby emphasizing the necessity of bringing balance to one’s life as a means of maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle.

Consistent with a Christian university in the liberal arts tradition, the liberal arts core curriculum of the University of Sioux Falls reflects the institutional desire to assist students in developing a sound, Christian worldview. As a broader incentive, the liberal arts core curriculum establishes the foundation upon which students can build honorable and fulfilling lives.