January 20, 2011
Butler’s Liberal Arts Matter

This spotlight features the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Butler University. Dean Jay R. Howard wrote to us about the college’s special focus on the liberal arts.

Dean Jay R. Howard

“At Butler University, we take pride in being an institution where a solid grounding in the liberal arts is infused in every degree program.  We want to educate students for life as well as for earning a living.  Liberal Arts Matter  at Butler!  That is why we intentionally seek to remind our students and ourselves of the importance of cultivating the skills and orientation that are the result of an education grounded in a liberal arts perspective. 

“We do this in a number of ways including having a faculty member address the importance of the liberal arts in an essay for each incoming class of students, book reviews by faculty members published in NUVO and on our website, and an annual student essay contest in which students reflect upon the value of the liberal arts.  We also sponsor Global Adventures in the Liberal Arts (GALA) – a unique study abroad program which allows students to travel to multiple locations in a single semester, living and traveling with one Butler faculty member who teaches one course. We also sponsor learning community groups each year through a program called, “CrossCurrents”.  CrossCurrents groups include faculty and staff from across the university who explore a topic of mutual interest, reading and discussing books before making a panel presentation on the topic to the university community.

“In these and many other ways, Butler University and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are committed to demonstrating that the Liberal Arts Matter!”

Liberal Arts Matters is both a philosophy and a comprehensive website (http://butler.edu/liberal-arts-matters/) created by members of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. We especially like “Recommended Readings” with reviews of favorite books, “Liberal Arts Resources” with published essays, and “Core Values,” a sweeping statement about the liberal arts, translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

How are the core values of a liberal arts education reflected in each department’s curriculum? This excerpt from the statement of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering is a charming example:

 “Our discipline is certainly very mathematical and analytic in nature. We call the development of software an engineering process. But the writing of a program can be a very creative and fulfilling activity. As we work on our code, removing the flaws (which we call bugs) and extending its functionality, over time it seems to take on a personality of its own. Its code can be ugly or a thing of beauty. And then we run our code, and we can interact with it, and it does things for us, and it seemingly comes to life! If that is not the essence of the creative process, what is?”

The Liberal Arts, Authors, Scientists, and Religious Scholars

Butler University seeks to expose students to some of the great ideas and most cutting edge work in the Liberal Arts through several speakers series.

The Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University features public readings with some of the most influential people in contemporary literature. Authors like Toni Morrison, Billy Collins, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Gwendolyn Brooks, Nick Hornby, David Sedaris, Allen Ginsberg and Amy Tan have shared their work and interacted directly with undergraduate students in Butler’s English classes

The program offers an average of 16 events each year, all of which are free and open to the Indianapolis community, making the Butler University Visiting Writers Series the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. View the Spring schedule.  

Butler's Center for Faith and Vocation

The Butler University Seminar on Religion and World Civilization – Religion, Peacemaking, Conflict  brings scholars and religious leaders from around the world to discuss the role and impact of religion on the major issues of our time.  Topics for the spring 2011 semester include “Religious Violence: Myth or Global Reality?” and “Faith-based Development Work and Peacemaking.”

 The J. James Woods Lectures in the Sciences and Mathematics brings prominent mathematicians and scientists to Butler University to speak on theories at the frontiers of their disciplines and to address other topics of public concern.  In the spring 2011 semester Butler will  welcome virus hunter Nathan Wolfe to campus as well as elephant conservationist Katy Payne and mathematician Donald O’Shea.

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Butler 

Professor Andrew Levy, Director of Writer's Studio and M.F.A. Program

Butler’s new MFA in Creative Writing is a 30-hour studio MFA that includes eight three-credit courses and six hours of formal thesis work with an advisor. Programs are offered in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, courses in screenwriting, teaching creative writing, alternative forms, and literary publishing. Butler’s is one of the few programs in the country that features service to the community.  Butler established the MFA program in 2008 and had its first graduates in December 2010.

 Soon the MFA will have a new home, the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.  The Efroymson Family Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, and Jeremy Efroymson have donated $1 million to Butler University to buy the home at 530 W. Hampton Drive – which from 1965 to 1979 was the University president’s house – and convert it to the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.

The center will be used for collaboration, creativity and discussion with Butler’s visiting writers, as well as a place to provide living space for those writers and selected students in Butler’s MFA program. A portion of the gift also will be used to establish an endowed fund for continued operations and maintenance of the center.

Butler’s Contributions to the Indiana Humanities Council

Two staff members of the Indiana Humanities Council are graduates of Butler University. Here they explain how the liberal arts and humanities made a difference in their university careers and beyond:

Kristen Fuhs WellsKristen Fuhs Wells, Class of 2005, Communications Director:  “I think it’s important to note, that at Butler, the humanities aren’t isolated within the Liberal Arts & Sciences. Regardless of your major, you’re encouraged to understand and appreciate world history and culture through a variety of ways: through the core curriculum, through studying abroad and taking international-focused courses. I’ve been lucky enough to cross disciplines within the university, and as a liberal arts trained MBA student I’m continuously required to merge traditional humanities and business skills when I inquire, analyze and communicate.”

Photo of Kristin HessKristin Hess, Class of 2010, Food for Thought Ambassador & Graphic Designer:  “The first Butler-housed humanities experience that comes to mind occurred my first year. In that freshman-level multidisciplinary English class Faith, Doubt and Reason, philosophy professor Dr. Stuart Glennan challenged me to explore the very basis of language, the mind and humanity itself. His class sent me tumbling through belief, reason and the process of teasing through language of the past to form my own sturdy structures. These structures were at times cracked and crumbled from the forces of my own insecurity and diffidence, but Dr. Glennan held me to a high standard of well-written and proudly completed work.  Nearly every essay had to be rewritten and most class discussions were interrupted to stretch my mind far past the thought I had found so intellectually advanced in the minutes before. The class wore away bigotry, leaving my thoughts raw and open to the brilliance of Plato, Socrates and Rousseau; yet, however painful this process of shedding my complacency and welcoming higher intellectualism, I grew. I know I am better for being required embrace my own humanity, and in doing so, I acquired the ever-enriching knowledge one gains after learning to love the humanities.”

Posted In: Spotlight

One response to “Butler’s Liberal Arts Matter”

  1. The Aunschluss of big media.

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