by Steffi Delcourt
Education, specifically a well-rounded education, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, what with two professors specializing in paleoecology for parents and a sister pursuing a career in researching math. As an English and Psychology major, I have united my love of literature with a scientific curiosity that I must have inherited from my parents. My English major was expected: I have loved to read since I learned at age four. Psychology was not: I fell in love with the discipline after my freshman seminar.
Part of what drew me to Emory for my undergraduate college experience was its focus on leaving four years later with a liberal arts education. I could experiment before I settled down into one specific track, and keep experimenting throughout college if I wanted. I developed my analytical and critical writing skills through my English and other writing-intensive courses, but I also honed my ability to identify research questions and problems, as well as make strides toward answering them. These skills, in addition to having knowledge about the world at large, are essential for participating in the global culture of today.
But a true liberal arts education is so much more than acquiring a necessary skillset and being strongly encouraged to take an English class, a math class and two physical education classes before I graduate. Ours is a time where the world can be searched and seen with the right algorithm, where a wireless internet connection for phones is paramount, where communication can happen in seconds and yet thousands of miles apart, where a library can be perused with a ‘click.’ The access to information feels like enough; if everything is at my fingertips, isn’t that enough?
The liberal arts are here to unfurl the world at our feet. It’s not enough merely to look at the information and know that it is there. We must ask why. We are constantly exposed to new information, disciplines, dimensions, cultures, worlds – with all the information at our fingertips, I think we forget to ask why. And that is where the liberal arts excel.
A liberal arts education is active. It is seizing the opportunity to learn from Salman Rushdie, participate in an experiment or organize one yourself, speaking a different language and discovering another culture. It is taking a class with a Tibetan monk, or listening to Yefim Bronfman tickle the ivories. It’s asking the question, “Why is the world the way it is?” and then searching for the answer yourself. The liberal arts feed your curiosity. And the world can never have too much curiosity.