The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Why the liberal arts? A liberal arts tradition fosters a deep capacity for decision-making and creativity in our students as they develop effective solutions to the world’s complex, interrelated challenges and opportunities. Today, more than ever before, young people require cross-cultural competency, a spirit of collaboration, and an ability to draw connections between diverse fields of knowledge and skills.

Nothing prepares them better for these requirements than the kind of intensive liberal arts training that Claremont McKenna College has embraced since its founding in 1946. The College's mission is rooted in a learning experience with a social dimension and a public face – scholarly understanding and pragmatic application with real impact. The model we embrace prepares our students to address the pressing issues of our day with a sensibility informed by the wealth of lessons that only liberal arts training can provide. At CMC, we build a bridge between a classical liberal arts education and real-world engagement — for 67 years, that has been our unique mission in higher education, and our contribution to producing real, substantive differences in surrounding communities and around the world.

At the Future of Liberal Arts in India conference, leading educators from India and the United States will discuss the benefits of and issues involved in expanding the role of liberal arts in India’s higher education system. Following are the thoughts of some of the conference participants, and CMC students, on the importance of a liberal arts curriculum.

CMC President Hiram Chodosh

Hiram E. Chodosh

President, Claremont McKenna College

"The great writers have an implicit, deep understanding of structure and rhythm. The great mathematicians are in many ways pure philosophers (and often very good musicians). The great physicists are outrageously imaginative in their ability to visualize the real world in advance of their empirical observations. The great social enterprises draw on the most sophisticated business practices. And great thinkers and doers take charge of understanding disciplines and expertise at a deeper methodological level. Recognizing those underlying connections is so essential to the critically creative contributions our civilization needs. This is what makes the liberal arts so vital, not only in the fulfillment of full and productive living, but also in the effectiveness of learning and doing."

Pomona President David Oxtoby

David Oxtoby

President, Pomona College

"The creative minds needed to address the most pressing challenges of tomorrow are being cultivated today in the liberal arts. Study of the liberal arts promotes critical and creative thinking, intellectual agility, analytic prowess and the ability to formulate well-reasoned arguments. At Pomona College and other leading liberal arts institutions, students are challenged to nurture these qualities to prepare themselves for their future, and also to serve as 21st century citizens/leaders who will shape the future in ways that will benefit society as a whole."

UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla

Pradeep Khosla

Chancellor, University of California, San Diego

"The humanities are an integral part of a well-rounded higher education. While science, engineering, technology, and medicine improve and save lives, the arts and humanities and social sciences help us to understand who we are, and enrich our lives."

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal

George Blumenthal

Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz

"The liberal arts curriculum prepares students for today's world. They learn to think independently, to ask questions, and to push boundaries. This approach encourages exploration and discovery, and it nurtures tomorrow's leaders. We see the payoff in virtually every field, from science and innovation to business and artistic expression."

Annie Jalota '13

Annie Jalota '13

"I definitely needed the chance to explore a lot of different courses coming in as a freshman, before I was able to declare my major. CMC gave me the chance to explore, and to become well-rounded."

Karan Saggi '14

Karan Saggi '14

"I chose to attend a liberal arts college because I had interests in more than one subject. A liberal arts education has mainly broadened my perspective … Before, I would just think as an economist or as a science student … Coming to a liberal arts college, I can think about a situation, not just accept that it's happening, but really think about why it's happening, from very different perspectives, all at once."

Manasvini Shriya Ravishankar '14

Manasvini Shriya Ravishankar '14

"I used to think, before I came to college, that to work at a company like Google, you would have to be a computer science engineer. I'm neither a computer science nor an engineering major. But I ended up working at Google for two summers … and I totally account for that because of my liberal arts background."

Vaiddehi Bansal '15

Vaiddehi Bansal '15

"At a liberal arts college, you’re encouraged to work in teams and groups and make presentations. You figure our your strengths and weaknesses as a team member, and as a leader, and how to delegate tasks."