Celebrating 25 years of liberal arts excellence

Celebrating 25 years of liberal arts excellence

Georgia College’s roots run deep in providing a top-quality education to students. Over the years, the university has changed in many ways, but that same dedication remains the same.

 In 1996, the Georgia Board of Regents designated Georgia College as the state’s public liberal arts university. We celebrate 25 years of this designation and showcase how the liberal arts comes to life on campus today.

A liberal arts education is defined as the academic course of instruction that develops broad intellectual capacities. Through liberal arts, students receive exposure to career-relevant skills that prepare them for a range of professions.

Students learn to think critically and broadly about issues. They learn to be effective communicators and work with diverse groups of people in teams. Ambiguity and challenges don’t intimidate them. Instead, they’re adaptable and resilient when problems arise—all skills taught and championed through the liberal arts. 

“Those skills are very relevant. In fact, I would argue that they’re probably even more relevant now than back in 1996 when we received the designation,” said Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The call from business and corporate leaders has also been stronger as survey after survey reveals they are seeking employees who possess those skills.”

At Georgia College, the teaching and learning of so-called “soft skills” takes place in a gamut of ways.

Professors build their course to incorporate not just textbook definitions and PowerPoint lectures. They bring concepts to life through interactive learning, group projects and challenging students to think independently through their studies.

“Our university community is committed to thinking about the liberal arts and sciences in innovative ways, and one of those outcomes is GC Journeys,” said Spirou. 

Student trains in the nursing skills lab.
Student trains in the nursing skills lab.

The co-curricular opportunities complement the classroom experience as all students are encouraged to participate in study abroad, undergraduate research, community-based engaged learning, leadership development and internships. Each is a component of the GC Journeys Program.

The recently launched Border-Free GC aims to make international experiences more accessible.

“The liberal arts is really about the ability or the willingness to engage beyond defined structures,” said Spirou “I think that the Border-Free approach drops those boundaries, expands opportunities and allows students who otherwise would not have been able to view or engage, to now be able to do that.”

Over the past 25 years, Georgia College has consistently worked to make the educational and co-curricular experience more engaging and beneficial for students. Through a campuswide embracing of the liberal arts, the university has been able to hone in on the skills and experiences most beneficial for students. That continues to happen as technology develops and new opportunities arise.  

For many years it’s been assumed that the broad-based knowledge provided through liberal arts doesn’t connect to professional-specific training.

“Many in our society promote the idea that one either pursues the liberal arts, or one studies business or technology fields, or some specific career-oriented training,” said Spirou. “I think what's become more apparent over time is that both of those experiences can and should coexist.  In fact, that they need to engage or interact with each other.”

One such example recently launched is the Bachelor of Science degree in data science. The new major was developed to meet a growing area of interest from our students as well as industry trends. The cross-college initiative between the departments of mathematics and computer science allows students to combine education and training from both departments for a degree that is relevant today.

"Liberal arts contributes to your individual connection to your social world."
– Dr. Costas Spirou

Spirou says plans are already in the works to develop more similar collaborations across the university. Georgia College continues to be innovative in the opportunities provided to students, and it’s that same sense of continuous development “we hope students embrace and carry with them,” he said.

Being a life-long learner and embracing social responsibility are hallmarks of a liberal arts and science education and of Georgia College graduates. 

“Liberal arts contributes to your individual connection to your social world,” Spirou said. “When you graduate and pursue a career, the sense of commitment to your social world, your community may lead you to volunteer. You may decide to run for office, maybe decide to be in some leadership position that will serve others.”

A liberal arts education helps propel students to whatever path they choose or whatever challenges come their way. On the heels of the trials our world faced over the last year and a half, the skills taught through liberal arts were affirmed even more. 

“I think it’s important to celebrate how liberal arts values have helped higher education as a whole to get through the pandemic,” said Spirou. “Think about concepts like resiliency, collaboration, transparency, flexibility, attributes that we all had to take on, are key elements of a liberal arts education.” 

Fromer Presidents Drs. Dorothy Leland and Rosemary DePalo pictured from the 20th anniverary celebration in 2016.
Fromer Presidents Drs. Dorothy Leland and Rosemary DePalo pictured from the 20th anniverary celebration in 2016.