The Advantages to Liberal Arts

When I first began considering colleges, I didn’t know what I wanted. There are so many different institutions that all have great programs or different sorts of rankings that make them all sound wonderful, and I had no idea which ones would be best suited for me and my interests. As I explored further, I began to like the idea of attending a liberal arts college, with a liberal arts curriculum that would not box me into taking classes just about my major. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, and I really wanted to be able to explore and take classes from a variety of fields, which was really important to me.

Whitman has given me the opportunity to do so, as it requires their students to take classes from a variety of disciplines and departments. While there are major requirements, the classes that one must take to fulfill their major, there are also distribution requirements, which are credits that must be fulfilled in a variety of different categories, such as humanities, cultural pluralism, quantitative analysis, and more. This semester, none of my classes are in the same department, which allows me to be exposed to classes and ideas that I might not otherwise encounter if I went to a different school.

For example, I am taking Sociology 259, a class entitled “Crime and Delinquency”, which is perhaps my favorite class this semester. While we spend a good deal of time talking about theories of crime and how society responds to it, we also discuss current events and how they intersect with what we have been learning in class. We also spend a good deal of time reading different texts about a variety of important subjects with the criminal justice world. Our professor is very committed to having strong group discussions, and is always asking us to critically examine the different theories we are presented with and to develop our own thoughts on the subject. It’s a very thought-provoking class, and has really influenced my thoughts on the type of work I want to do after I graduate.

Although I’m not going to major in any sort of science and I tend to stay clear of science courses, this semester I am taking Chemistry 100, or Environmental Chemistry and Science, in order to fulfill my science distribution requirements. While I had my doubts, I have loved this course! The class focuses on what the professor terms “environmental success stories,” incidents in which we have solved or are working to resolve different environmental issues throughout human history, while also looking at the many issues that we still have to overcome. My favorite part of this class was a segment on the history of water treatment and the many steps used in modern water treatment that ensure that our drinking water is safe. I’m so glad that I’m taking this course, which is totally approachable for non-science majors.

I am also taking Advanced Spanish. In this class, we read a lot of texts written by prominent Hispanic authors, as well as explore a variety of other mediums, such as songs, comics, and different artists. Each time we meet for class, we have class discussions on the assigned homework and work on our verbal Spanish skills. We also periodically write page long compositions in Spanish, and have editing sessions where correct our papers and work on grammar mistakes. This class is perhaps my most difficult this semester, but I am glad I am taking it, as I plan to minor in Spanish. I also am planning on spending a semester abroad during my junior year in a Spanish-speaking country, so having several classes in Spanish under my belt will be very useful.

In addition to Spanish, I am taking an English class on Medieval Literature. The class is focused on looking at Medieval texts and examining how they form ideas about national identity, gender, and religion, to name a few. At first, we read texts, such as Beowulf, that were translated for us from the original text. As we have worked our way through the semester, we have come to the point where we are reading the Canterbury tales in Middle English, aided by the notes that help readers navigate the text. While some English words are pretty similar and recognizable, others are totally unfamiliar, and it is fascinating to see how this form of English differs from the one we see today.

Although my classe all come from different departments, I am always finding instances in which what I have learned in one class better explains what I am discovering in a different class and finding strange connections between very different subjects. While there are many things I love about Whitman, what I appreciate most is my ability to explore my interests beyond whatever major I have in mind, as well as the support that I have received from all the professors who are there to facilitate their students’ learning. When it comes to college, liberal arts is the perfect fit for me.

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