College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
LAS Core Values
Written by a subcommittee of College department chairs and adopted by the entire College faculty, the College core values statement is a lyrical tribute to the history, aims and importance, both historically and currently, of the liberal arts. Statements have also been written about the role of liberal arts in each discipline's curriculum.
Core Values for the College of Liberal Arts and Science
The liberal arts' basic and historic purpose is at once to teach us to think for ourselves, to act wisely and well in the world, to undertake occupations useful to ourselves and others. Liberal arts education seeks ultimately to open us to the human condition in its pains and joys, thereby to nurture our personal integrity, and to foster in us compassion and respect for those whose lives we share in our own communities and around the world.
Liberal arts education rests on a paradox: thinking soundly oneself means first listening carefully to the thoughts of others. The liberal arts urge us to cultivate ourselves through the consciousness of others; careful attention to their ideas and actions help us refine our own.
Liberal arts education is pluralistic. It is composed of many voices, each appropriate to time and place, some discordant, none absolute. It seeks to develop in us wit to judge which skills are appropriate at which times. Liberal arts education is restless. It takes nothing for granted. Its characteristic activity is not uncritical assent but critical judgment. It scrutinizes sacred truths of every sort.
The liberal arts develop not only critical but also creative skills, not only rational analysis but also creative expression. They seek to develop and realize the fullness of the human personality. Their exercise aims as well at preparing students to educate themselves long after they have left formal school. Liberal arts education is meant to train its students for public responsibility, not just private good.
A liberal arts education is as much about the journey as the destination. It takes as much delight in the minute by minute quirks of learning as in the fulfillment of distant goals. It balances the will to know with empathy and wonderment.
The Latin word ars means at once skill, knowledge, and practice. A liberal arts education begins with the skills of language and thought.
It teaches us to read well; to listen well; to write clear, concise prose; to speak privately in conversation, publicly in discussion, and formally in speeches; to judge one's audience and regard one's own words through the eyes and ears of others; to learn proper ways of integrating and citing the words and thoughts of others into one's own work; to do these things reasonably well in languages and worldviews other than our own.
It teaches us to set out a case or hypothesis or argument; to evaluate the rigor of others' arguments; to find and judge information in libraries, on the internet, and in other repositories. It teaches us modes of ascertaining truth and falsehood; resourcefulness appropriate to moral and aesthetic judgment; methods of logical, experimental, scientific, mathematical, and statistical reasoning.
These skills allow us to tackle and solve increasingly difficult and challenging problems, appreciate sources of bias and means of overcoming them, and entertain arguments from dissonant points of view. They develop in us a sense of subtlety, depth, and complexity.
A liberal arts education sees the cultivation of these skills not only as an end in itself but also as a preparation for the pursuit of knowledge and the other purposes of human life. The Chinese Book of Changes well captures a fundamental quality of liberal arts education when it intimates that knowledge and practice cannot be mastered until they have been regarded from different perspectives.
As students of the liberal arts, we cultivate as fully as possible the legacy of human thought, imagination, creativity, and research; observe nature; confront and evaluate important theories that shape our understanding of the world and how to care for it; figure out how societies, our own and those of others, work and can be improved; weigh the costs and benefits of modern human life to the individual and the planet; seek to grasp and reduce the sources of human hatred and conflict; aim to understand and strengthen what inspires human cooperation; explore the workings of the human mind and body; unknot claims of teachers, politicians, advertisers, scientists, preachers, columnists and your roommate; ponder history from the earliest epochs to the unfolding present; investigate the mechanisms of the cosmos, from the atom to the stars; delve into the past experiences of our own and other societies, as well as the current news; make ourselves at home in other cultures; make those from other cultures at home among ourselves; see the interplay between our beliefs about the natural world and our beliefs about religion, politics, and culture; search out purpose, ponder the meaning of life, scrutinize the human heart, weigh conscience; discover the sweep of living systems, from microbes to biomes; learn to account for ourselves in a moral world that is neither black nor white; engage in a careful search for truth; know the ways of money and the nature of work; wrestle with ideas about God; fathom the relations between technology and human life; raise children, our own and those of others; consider the well-being of future generations; appreciate the beauty and uses of mathematics; forge agreements with loved ones, friends and enemies; engage ourselves in the principles, purposes and practice of public life.
As students of the liberal arts, we do these things as part of a community with venerable roots; a community still evolving in space and time; a community of thought, imagination, value, labor, and action.
Adopted by the LAS Faculty, 21 March 2007
Core Values of LAS Departments
It would be incorrect to suggest that biology, which did not exist as a unified and coherent field until the 19th century, has always been a part of the liberal arts tradition. However, "natural theology" and the rudiments of medical science can be traced back to the time of ancient societies throughout pre-modern Europe, Asia, and Africa. During the Middle Ages, when what we would recognize as the first "Western" universities were established, the sciences were a vital part of the program of study. The prevailing science of the Middle Ages, astronomy, was a critical aspect of the quadrivium, along with mathematics, geometry, and music theory. As the liberal arts tradition evolved, other sciences came to take their place in the curriculum: physics, then alchemy, which gave rise to chemistry. Biology would not exist as a distinct discipline until the maturation of the cell theory and, later, Charles Darwin's suggestion of modification with descent as a unifying theme for zoology, botany, and other studies of living things. Despite its relative youth, biology has become a key component of the natural sciences in most modern liberal arts curricula.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Statement of Core Values indicates that at the foundation of a liberal arts education are the "skills of language and thought." These skills have less to do with any specific profession, but instead are integral to the maturation of a broadly educated individual, one who is capable of recognizing, understanding, and responding to his or her social and professional contexts. The skills of language and thought emphasize the importance of communication through reading, writing, and speaking well. Those who make discoveries heretofore unknown to science and society, but who are unable to articulate the findings and help others to understand their importance, have accomplished nothing for the greater good. The Core Value Statement also recognizes the importance of the ability to collect, evaluate, and synthesize information and to place previous findings in a novel context. Skills of thought prepare us to be able to pose original questions, posit answers, collect and analyze data using various techniques, and evaluate multiple interpretations of the findings. This skill set is essential to the well-educated citizen in general, and to successful students of biology in particular.
As a natural science, biology is based on the use of observations, logic, and mathematics (both key components of the liberal arts tradition) to propose and rigorously test ideas about the rules that organize living systems. Course work in the Department of Biological Sciences is designed to explore the content that is fundamental to the broad field of modern biology (students must take upper level course in the three key areas: organismal biology, cellular and molecular biology, and ecological and evolutionary biology). Regardless of the specific course content, however, students will be expected to continue to develop the skills of critical thinking and communication. Students are encouraged to think of the content of their courses in the biological sciences in the context of the wider world. The connections between the biological sciences and the rest of the liberal arts are manifold, as biological findings of the past century and a half have had a major impact on ethics, religion, philosophy, government policy, psychology, and the arts, and are likely to continue to do so. Our students join in this tradition of expanding our understanding of the natural world and adding depth to the meaning of "life."
As part of the Liberal Arts, the study of chemistry provides an arena where an individual can listen and learn from the works of others while constructing his or her own models of the world. Through the study of chemistry it can be shown that in science, as in our greater lives, people seeking may not arrive at the same truth. Also, ideas and theories are not absolutes and must constantly be subjected to question and in the case of a laboratory science, experimentation.
Even though chemistry serves to develop the ability to solve problems through logic, mathematics and critical thinking skills, the role of creativity cannot be forgotten. A synthetic methodology, a new analytical technique, a fresh insight to a biochemical process or a new explanation to the nature of matter happen not just from the logic of what has come before but from a creative leap into the unknown. Chemistry provides an insight to beauty through the symmetry and asymmetry of molecules, to elegance through the simplicity of a derivation, and to the concept of true conservation through the economy of atoms and molecules in biochemical systems.
Though chemistry may not have been considered by name within the classic university, it was then, as it is now a part of our lives. It grew out of the quest for beauty through the development of cosmetics and fragrances. It grew out of the desire for good health as we developed herbal remedies and medicines. It also came to be out of the quest for wealth and power as the alchemist of the past tried to turn base metals into gold. The simplistic idea of "better living through chemistry" led to a world of longer lives with more conveniences. It also created a world of nuclear weapons, depletion of the ozone layer, bioaccumulation of heavy metals and other threats.
Chemistry can lead to a meaningful career for an individual, providing a means of using talents that gives the fulfillment. It provides the underlying intellectual support for many other areas of study and for many of our modern day industrial processes. The chemical industry is always searching for the next great idea, but the quest for the new innovation, product or job must be tempered by the ethics. These ethics cannot simply be the scientific method: observe, hypothesis, theorize, experiment and repeat. The ethics must be based on the Liberal Arts. An innovation must improve the human condition. The study of chemistry within the Liberal Arts looks to how science will impact not just now, but the future. Chemistry in the Liberal Arts must address not just the pursuit of power and wealth but the overall human community.
Recently Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has adopted a statement of Core Values. As a thoroughly interdisciplinary field, Classical Studies has much to contribute to the pursuit of the goals laid out in this statement.
The foundations of our concept of the Liberal Arts and Sciences begin with the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks referred to any individual who pursued only private affairs as an idiotes, from which we get the English word "idiot". The Romans had an overwhelming sense of officium, a sense of duty to the larger community which involved discipline and self-education. Both the Greeks and Romans sought intellectual pursuits that would give them insight on "the human condition in its pains and joys." In following their intellectual curiosity, the great minds of Greece and Rome hoped that the pursuit of a self-reflective life would "foster in us compassion and respect for those whose lives we share in our own communities."
Inspired by the literature, art, and history of the Greeks and Romans, we in Classical Studies embrace the opportunity to explore a multitude of voices from a wide span of time. We believe that each period of time has something to say to us, and yet, we are not content with one final and absolute understanding of the world. We can look to the ancients to spark our "critical judgment", as we "scrutinize sacred truths of every sort." We embrace the potentials of these ancient ideas, while at the same time we acknowledge the failures of these people to live up to the ideals that they set out for themselves. By looking at the gaps between ancient potential and ancient reality, we seek to critically examine our words "through the eyes and ears of others."
The Greeks and Romans, although living in a different time, were caught up in many of the struggles we find ourselves working through. It is not a coincidence that the American Forefathers chose to name one of the houses of Congress the Senate. Seeking a turn away from royal rule, but wary of the radical democracy of Athens, the Forefathers modeled their new government on the Roman system. As we read the historical accounts of Herodotus, Thucydides, or Tacitus, we engage with issues that do not have simple solutions, "a moral world that is neither black nor white." As we read the political speeches of Demosthenes or Cicero, we are confronted with the challenge of seeing through the rhetoric. Our efforts will enable us to "unknot claims of teachers, politicians, advertisers, scientists, preachers, columnists and roommate[s]." Though the material is ancient, Classical Studies offers us a home in a world that requires us to respond to a wide array of issues.
Like the Romans and Greeks before us, we do not pursue knowledge simply for the sake of knowing alone. Following our own sense of officium, we Classicists seek to draw connections between current social issues and those of the past. We pursue Classical Studies as part of "a community with venerable roots; a community still evolving in space and time; a community of thought, imagination, value, labor, and action."
Computer Science & Software Engineering is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On the CLAS website there is a statement of the core values of a liberal education.
Here, we discuss and elaborate on how we see CS&SE as part of a liberal arts education. The quotes below are from the core values document cited above.
The liberal arts' basic and historic purpose is at once to teach us to think for ourselves, to act wisely and well in the world, to undertake occupations useful to ourselves and others.
All CSSE majors are required to take CS485, Computer Ethics. In this course, we study ethical dilemmas and societal concerns as they relate to the computing professions. The goal of this course is not to tell students what is right and what is wrong, but rather, through class discussion and the analysis of specific case studies, to learn how to approach and analyze tough situations, and to understand the impact our decisions can have on our co-workers, clients, loved ones, and the world as a whole.
Certainly an occupation in computer science or software engineering can be very useful, and the work we do can help the world. It would be difficult to imagine daily life without the algorithms and software that make our cars, cellphones, iPods, and other gadgets work; most people use computers at work or at home on a daily basis for a wide variety of tasks; now that we have the web, how would we function without it? Algorithms and software are behind all these things, and for us, working on this stuff is fun.
Liberal arts education seeks ultimately to open us to the human condition in its pains and joys, thereby to nurture our personal integrity, and to foster in us compassion and respect for those whose lives we share in our own communities and around the world.
Our Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course seeks to expose our students to the rewards of community service through software projects developed for non-profit and charity clients.
The liberal arts develop not only critical but also creative skills, not only rational analysis but also creative expression.
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 Latin word ars means at once skill, knowledge, and practice. A liberal arts education begins with the skills of language and thought. ... These skills allow us to tackle and solve increasingly difficult and challenging problems, appreciate sources of bias and means of overcoming them, and entertain arguments from dissonant points of view. They develop in us a sense of subtlety, depth, and complexity.
Our major program begins with a course on mathematical problem solving. Our students learn to think algorithmically and to communicate algorithms both to other people and to a computer as programs written in various programming languages. And they practice these skills over and over again.
Our students take a journey as they improve their programming skills. In their first course, they may write a half-page program to convert degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius. By the time they graduate, they are writing large pieces of software that are thousands of lines long, such as building a compiler, encrypting messages using the RSA public-key algorithm, or solving research problems on a supercomputer. They learn deep truths about algorithms, such as the Recursion Theorem (a program can, as its output, write a program more complex than itself), or the unsolvability of the halting problem (no program can ascertain certain simple behaviors about other programs, like whether they will ever stop running), or that it is essentially impossible to write extremely large software that is bug-free.
A liberal arts education sees the cultivation of these skills not only as an end in itself but also as a preparation for the pursuit of knowledge and the other purposes of human life.
In the end, computer science and software engineering, as disciplines, are about solving problems for people in all areas of human life. And people are drawn to the computing professions in part because of the need to always be learning, and to find new ways to solve problems. Humanity will never run out of problems to solve.
An English major learns that:
Reading well prepares you to appreciate both great beauty and great thoughts. It gives you the ability to pick up a book or a poem and find not only a reflection of yourself, but of a worldwide community linked by the love of words. It helps you to appreciate a fresh metaphor or a well-turned phrase, and to understand that language shapes and informs our understanding of reality.
Interpreting empowers you to translate the world around you, whether you are listening to a song that you love, hearing a political speech or reading a Shakespearean play. The power of interpretation enables you to stand amid the signs and symbols that surround you, to look beneath and beyond them; to unveil the half-hidden or sometimes buried truths that once known, render the world at once new and knowable.
Writing well helps you organize the world before you, to arrange the chaos of contemporary culture. It gives you the tools to connect unlike objects and thoughts. Writing leads you to find the narrative thread of your own experience, and how it intertwines with the experiences of others. It sharpens your thinking, and allows you to put your ideas and feelings into a form that others can comprehend.
Speaking well means you can be persuasive when communicating with others. It gives you the foundation to stand up confidently and be heard; it enables you to find the evidence you will need to render effective arguments and clear judgments.
Imagining other worlds helps you look more clearly at your own. Writing creatively expands your appreciation of how language signals meaning, becomes powerful, and acquires beauty. It helps you understand the struggles of other writers, and calls on you to find the differences and the similarities among all human beings.
Community grows in discussions of the arts, of feelings, and of beauty; and renders the world meaningful. It reassures you that others have followed the paths that we are on. It gives you the route to explore our culture and society and what it means to us as individuals.
The faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University has adopted a statement of the core values of the College. (In the following, phrases in quotation marks are taken from this core values statement.) Mathematics as an academic discipline has been a part of the liberal arts tradition since antiquity, and in medieval universities two of the four liberal arts studied (the so-called quadrivium) were mathematical in nature. The study of mathematics teaches "us to think for ourselves," since we as mathematicians often must grapple with complex symbolic systems, persevere through long and complicated problems, or work through complicated logical schemes. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences core values statement also declares that liberal arts education "takes nothing for granted" and "teaches us modes of ascertaining truth and falsehood." Mathematics is a deductive, axiom- and proof-based discipline, and, as such, requires verification for its assertions. In practicing mathematics and its applications in actuarial science, we learn how to "set out an argument" when we construct a proof, solve a problem, or model a situation, and we learn how "to evaluate the rigor of others' arguments" when we understand for ourselves the proofs, solutions or models constructed by others. Mathematicians spend a considerable amount of time engaging "in a careful search for truth." Ascertaining the truth or falsehood of mathematical statements is an analytical process and practice in doing so improves our ability to consider critically the validity of any kind of argument, a skill vitally important for citizens of the 21st century. The skills learned in mathematics and actuarial science also allow us "to tackle and solve increasingly difficult and challenging problems," surely a desirable, even necessary, attribute of educated citizens. As a bonus, during the course of our studies, we learn to "appreciate the beauty and uses of mathematics."
Another hallmark of a liberal arts education is the cultivation of skills in communication, teaching us "to write clear, concise prose." In almost no other discipline is it as important to communicate clearly and precisely as it is in mathematics, for we must often exchange information with non-mathematicians as well as with mathematicians. From one point of view, mathematics is a separate language and proofs and solutions are basic forms of communication in that language.
Perhaps even more importantly, the study of mathematics and its related discipline actuarial science serves as "preparation for the pursuit of knowledge and the other purposes of human life." Not only does such study provide a springboard to advanced study in mathematics, actuarial science or other quantitatively or logically infused disciplines, such as computer science, law, philosophy, or statistics, but it stimulates our curiosity, engages our imagination, expands our aesthetic sensibilities, and develops our creativity. These are some of the most fundamental aspects of the art of being human, and we hone these capacities when we learn mathematics.
There are many ways in which the values that inform our major programs in Spanish, French, and German harmonize with those of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The ability to think for oneself, act wisely and well in the world, and undertake useful occupations is certainly enhanced by study of and immersion in a language and culture other than one's own. Thinking for oneself is done more effectively and authentically when one has ventured "outside oneself" by directly encountering thought and expression very different from one's own. One acts more wisely in the world when one has acted, and observed others acting, in contexts outside the small world each of us has grown up in. Being able to communicate in another language and being at ease in more than one cultural milieu are surely important qualifications for useful occupations. Study of the literature, drama, and film of another culture in the language of that culture certainly heightens awareness of the joys and pains of life and fosters respect for those who are both involved with us and different from us.
There are two major ways in which our majors encourage listening to others: communication with classmates is imperative and constant in our courses; the content of most of our courses is literally the thoughts of others as expressed in literature, drama, film, and other media. Pluralism, another of the College's leading values, is fostered by constant contact, and increasing familiarity, with difference, itself. Most of the students who major in one of our programs study abroad, and this is perhaps the single most significant experience an undergraduate can have. Study abroad, as many of our students have said after experiencing it, enables -forces- one to accept not only the otherness of others, but also one's own otherness. Immersion in a different cultural environment obliges us to acknowledge and appreciate difference, but also to recognize that we are observed and evaluated by others whose standards we must respect. There can be few equally effective ways to progress toward a definition of one's own integrity and to sense what knowledge and skills are appropriate when and where.
Nowhere is the nexus at which language and thought interact more closely approached than in our programs. Pursuing mastery of a language through the close study of cultural productions in that language enhances appreciation of language as such while fostering a sense of how powerfully it is possible to express thoughts and feelings. As our students study the full range of cultural moments and developments from the Middle Ages to the present, they contemplate the legacy of human thought and mobilize that legacy to grapple with today's issues. Moral and aesthetic judgments are made daily, as students learn what they like most in a particular cultural heritage and as they apply ethical, aesthetic, psychological, and other critical theories to appreciating and appreciating some of the major components of the human legacy.
All liberal arts programs focus on preparing and encouraging students to live useful and enjoyable lives and to spend their lives learning. MLLC's programs are excellent means to those ends.
The faculty of Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) has adopted a statement of Core Values that describes the key abilities, values and types of knowledge that we seek to develop in graduates of our college. The goals expressed in that statement are far reaching, but a philosophical education at Butler contributes to the achievement of many of them.
As the Core Values statement suggests, "a liberal arts education begins with the skills of language and thought." In philosophy, these skills are developed through the study and application of logic. Logic is the study of argument and inference - of properly drawing conclusions from premises. Logic is the tool by which we transform our experience into knowledge. Logic provides us a reasonable basis for our judgments and actions. Logic is pursued as a formal sub-discipline of philosophy in a course that is required of all majors, but in truth, however, logic is taught in every philosophy course, since all philosophy courses teach students (in the words of the LAS values statement) " to set out a case or hypothesis or argument" and "to evaluate the rigor of others' arguments." More generally, because of their attention to close reading, analytical writing and reasoned discussion, all philosophy courses cultivate the communications skills that characterize the liberally educated persons.
According to the Core Values statement, "Liberal arts education is pluralistic. It is composed of many voices, each appropriate to time and place, some discordant, none absolute." Philosophical study truly embodies this feature of liberal education. Students study the history of philosophy in order to hear how trenchant thinkers of different generations can engage questions of truth and value from such a bewildering variety of perspectives. When students study contemporary philosophical debates, instructors push them to engage thoughtfully, openly and critically with philosophers with very different views.
The Core Values statement tells us that the skills characteristic of a liberally educated person should be pursued not just for their own sake, but "also as a preparation for the pursuit of knowledge and the other purposes of human life." In philosophy courses, students use their skills of thought and language to pursue the most perennially challenging questions of which human beings have conceived- questions about the nature and possibility of knowledge, the origins and character of the natural and social world, the nature of mind and its relation to the world it perceives, and the existence and nature of the divine. And as important as these questions are, philosophy recognizes that ultimately it cannot limit itself to questions about what we and the world we inhabit are like. Ultimately philosophy should help us answer questions about value. What makes acts right? What makes people and things beautiful? How should we structure our lives, our communities and our governments? What gives our life meaning? And while the pursuit of these questions is of value in itself, we believe that disciplined philosophical reflection on these topics is most important because it can, in the words of the Core Values statement, "teach us to think for ourselves, to act wisely and well in the world, [and] to undertake occupations useful to ourselves and others."
The faculty members of the Political Science Department at Butler University see our discipline as connected to Liberal Arts which are about studying and understanding ourselves, other peoples, different ways of being and knowing, of developing tolerance and empathy, and learning to use evidence and think critically. As political scientists we seek to understand the causes of wars, social injustices, economic disparities and uneven technological growth for the purpose of alleviating suffering. Because a liberal arts education encourages an activist disposition we look for ways to address problems such as world poverty, inadequate health care, educational disparities between neighboring communities and environmental degradation and seek nonviolent solutions to human rights violations worldwide. The Political Science Department at Butler University deliberately challenges systems, institutions and leaders that dehumanize, marginalize and oppress any persons and other living beings. We seek to engage in intellectual practices that provide sustainable solutions for the betterment of all.
The department is committed to teaching students how to effect positive social change. In practicing citizenship skills that include empathetic listening, moral reasoning, personal responsibility and a greater awareness of one's responsibility to the human polity, our students develop as active and engaged citizens at the local, national and international levels. We offer courses that include service-learning and community-based research and that encourage students to accept responsibility for their learning and to recognize that knowledge may be obtained from a variety of different people and situations.
The Department of Psychology endorses the core values of a liberal arts education, as articulated by Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Core Values Statement , and is committed to fostering their expression within the department and throughout the university. Several of the core values are particularly relevant to the department's mission within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the following sections, we quote those specific values from the statement and describe how they serve as the foundation of our didactic and scholarly endeavors
"The liberal arts' basic and historic purpose is at once to teach us to think for ourselves…Liberal arts education is restless. It takes nothing for granted. It scrutinizes truths of every sort…. It teaches us to set out a case or hypothesis or argument; to evaluate the rigor of others' arguments".
From Introductory Psychology to our senior-level seminars, our courses are designed not just to transmit the knowledge and experiences necessary to pursue a career in psychology, but to instill the capacity to engage in critical thought. Although stimulating critical thinking can be accomplished in many ways, because we are a scientific discipline, we rely primarily on the teaching of the scientific method to achieve this goal. As part of this process, our students are taught how to use different theoretical perspectives to formulate empirically testable questions, learn how to apply different methodological approaches to the design of studies and data collection, receive training in the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, and acquire considerable experience in interpreting results and drawing appropriate conclusions. In short, starting in their very first psychology course, our majors learn how to carry out scientific research. As our students progress through the curriculum, they are repeatedly challenged to refine and hone their critical thinking in the context of the scientific process. Along the way, they not only develop their own ability to conduct empirical investigations, but also acquire the expertise to critique the investigations of others and to weigh the merits of others' claims from a scientific perspective. Throughout their undergraduate career, our students are encouraged to apply their critical thinking skills whenever they encounter new information, particularly when claims are made regarding the behavior, thinking and emotions of human beings, the primary subject matter of psychology.
"To undertake occupations useful to ourselves and others… to tackle and solve increasingly difficult and challenging problems…to foster in us compassion and respect for those whose lives we share in our own communities and around the world."
Although not all psychology majors pursue careers in counseling and clinical psychology, which focus on reducing psychopathology and emotional distress, the majority of our students seek such positions after graduation. Those who do not follow the clinical route typically pursue career paths that involve the application of psychological principles to solve problems in other fields, such as medicine, law, business, government and education. Although many of our students undertake the major with the eventual goal of entering into an occupation that involves helping others, becoming a psychology major means acquiring unique insights into the situational and dispositional forces that drive human behavior, thinking and emotion. Increased understanding of the universals underlying the human condition, in turn, tends to promote compassion for others and an increased sense of responsibility for the welfare of those both similar and dissimilar. In short, the study of psychology, by its very nature, not only provides students with knowledge that can be used to improve the well-being of others but also the desire to do so.
"To write clear, concise prose; to speak privately in conversation, publicly in discussion, and formally in speeches; to judge one's audience and regard one's own words through the eyes and ears of others; to learn proper ways of integrating and citing the words and thoughts of others into one's own work"
One of the most critical skills that a psychologist can possess is the ability to communicate effectively. Psychology majors are constantly required to hone their oral and written communication skills through a variety of mechanisms. Most coursework, especially our upper-level classes, emphasize written papers and oral presentations of highly sophisticated material. Many psychology majors also present research at local and national level conferences, which provides valuable experience relevant to the dissemination of scientific findings. Moreover, because psychology often operates in conjunction with and at the intersection of other disciplines, our students must also become adept in communicating our discipline's principles and theories to others with little or no understanding of psychology. This requirement, while challenging, serves to help our majors adopt the perspective of others and further refines their communication skills.
"As students of the liberal arts, we do these things as part of a community with venerable roots; a community still evolving in space and time; a community of thought, imagination, value, labor, and action."
Finally, as a department, we strive to convey to our students the role that psychology plays in the larger liberal arts community. Because psychology is a relatively young science, having only recently passed the century mark, we tend to emphasize our connections to the disciplines from which we emerged, biology and philosophy, as well as the more recent connections we have forged with medicine, public health, education, political science, religion, business, communications, mathematics, economics, anthropology, computer science, and sociology, among others. Modern psychology often draws inspiration from these fields. The investigations we undertake as a result not only advance psychological science, but provide empirically derived insights that benefit any discipline where behavior, cognition or affect is a target of inquiry. By consistently emphasizing the many ways in which psychology intersects with the liberal arts, we hope to foster in our students an appreciation of the greater scholarly community to which we all belong, to which we all contribute and from which we all benefit.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University recently adopted a core values statement. The courses offered by the religion program at Butler are closely connected to many of those values, and to the goals of a liberal education.
Throughout much of the core values statement, one could easily substitute "the study of religion" for "the liberal arts", of which it is a subset. The academic study of religion, whatever the specific aspect of religion being studied, involves a significant element of critical thinking, that is, of learning to think for oneself in a way that involves not only a critical examination of the views of others, but also of one's own views and assumptions. Intellectually, the study of religion can provide an opportunity to investigate humanity's highest ideals and values, and to place our own deepest assumptions and convictions under the microscope. The LAS core values statement asserts that "Liberal arts education …scrutinizes sacred truths of every sort." While true in general, the statement is perhaps most obviously true in relation to the study of religion, which is focused on that which human beings consider sacred in the strictest sense. Precisely because religion involves beliefs and practices that individuals frequently isolate from analysis and investigation, but which can nevertheless be the cause of conflict among different religious communities, if students can learn to think critically about religion, they can apply those same skills to other, less controversial areas of life.
A liberal arts education seeks to form broadly educated individuals capable of lifelong learning. Religious illiteracy is widespread. Many people know little about their own religious traditions, let alone the history, doctrines, and practices of others. Information is readily available on more web pages than one could ever find the time to read, but many websites contain half-truths, and others simply erroneous information. Learning the research skills to investigate sources of information, to demand evidence, to evaluate claims, and seek second opinions are all key elements of the study of religion, the liberal arts, and "lifelong learning."
The liberal arts involve not only an investigation of beliefs and ideas, but also of actions, customs, traditions, and creativity. Religions embody and give expression both to mysterious rituals and symbolism and to concrete acts of social activism. The religion program seeks to foster opportunities in its classrooms for encounter between different points of view and ways of life. It also provides occasions beyond the confines of the classroom for students to encounter individuals of other faiths or no faith at all, of other cultural backgrounds and heritages, Students in our time more than ever before approach their studies with the misperception that their future success in careers and in life in general depends on their focus on skills and knowledge specific to their choice of profession. Historically, however, it has been well known (and continues to be known by prospective employers, if not among would-be employees) that it is the breadth of education, the ability to continue learning and training, the flexibility and cultural awareness to interact with people and to deal constructively with the unexpected, that makes the candidates who possess them preferable to others. Whether one is hiring employees in a diverse workforce or being asked to work in that same context, the study of religion has much practical relevance not only in terms of the content it offers, but also in terms of the skills it nurtures.
Let us conclude, then, as the core values statement does: "As students of religion, we do these things as part of a community with venerable roots; a community still evolving in space and time; a community of thought, imagination, value, labor, and action.
The core values of the Sociology Department are placed squarely within a liberal arts tradition that strives to foster social awareness and a global perspective. The department's purpose is to (a) foster an academic understanding of social contexts, issues, theories, and methods, (b) cultivate students' abilities to succinctly and clearly express this knowledge in oral and written form, and (c) provide opportunities for students to utilize these acquired skills in an applied context. This sociological education will help students to develop a perspective that emphasizes critical inquiry and reasoning to address challenging social problems. Ultimately, it cultivates values that will shape students into life-long active, responsible and informed members of the greater community.