What exactly is a liberal art? What makes a liberal arts education distinct?

Two questions any USF student should consider and be able to answer by the time they are juniors, no matter their major. On the one hand, students might think of the liberal arts as being a celebration of God’s majestically creative mind. On the other, 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 for about 1000 years, and originally, there were seven: grammar, rhetoric and logic (called The Trivium), 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—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.