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University of Lethbridge opens new School of Liberal Education

The university is looking to its past as a liberal education institution to prepare students for the future.

By NATALIE SAMSON | JUN 23 2017
The four pillars. Courtesy of University of Lethbridge.

The University of Lethbridge is getting back to its roots with the launch of its School of Liberal Education this summer.

Fifty years ago, the university opened as a liberal education institution, explains professor Shelly Wismath. “Over time, social climates and attitudes changed. There was more pressure to find jobs when you graduated, more pressure on faculty to do more research. We gradually lost our focus.”

The school is the product of four years’ work by the liberal education revitalization team. Led by Dr. Wismath, the team clarified the university’s mission and expanded the liberal education program beyond its home in the arts and science faculty. They decided on a “four-pillar” model prioritizing breadth, cross-discipline connections, critical thinking and civic engagement. “We have complex problems ahead of us in the world and we want our students to be equipped to solve them for the public good,” she says.

All undergrads at the university are already expected to take four courses from three liberal education lists that include the sciences, social sciences, humanities and fine arts. The school will now oversee these lists and 16 liberal education courses. “What’s significant is this new administrative structure,” Dr. Wismath says. “We’re not one program among many, we’re now seen as having a university-wide impact.”

Dr. Shelley Wismath, centre, discusses a problem-solving exercise with students as part of a Liberal Education class. Photo courtesy of the University of Lethbridge.

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