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The Liberal Arts at Richmond

What is a Liberal Arts Education?

When liberal studies began, most people had to learn a trade and work hard within it to earn their livelihood. Only those who were financially well off and “free” to live without working a trade could study areas and skills that were not immediately practical. With this financial freedom, these students could spend their time contemplating life’s “big” questions through the pursuit of a liberal education.

Since then, a liberal education has become a foundation of self-government and free societies. A liberal education, and the questions and kinds of thinking it demands, are essential to the continued success of our society.

These goals, shared and carried out by each academic discipline, are at the heart of a liberal education:

  • To teach critical reasoning
  • To encourage innovation and creativity
  • To demonstrate and encourage clear communication
  • To advocate independent thinking that moves toward solutions.

A liberal education is essential to building a knowledgeable citizenship—nationally and globally. Part of any liberal education is an awareness that no person or community—whether a family, a town, or a nation—is alone; our actions impact many others, including those around us as well as those separated from us by miles or time.

What is special about a Richmond liberal arts education?

Richmond is first and foremost a community of learners. In and out of the classroom, the academic schools, the coordinate colleges, the university staff, and the many student and service organizations combine to create a life of learning that will continue far beyond the four years spent on campus.

A Richmond education is rigorous and diverse. The curriculum provides each student with a variety of liberal learning experiences, from the First-Year Seminar course through general education requirements and electives to coursework for a major. These learning experiences are continued outside the classroom through co-curricular programs, public lectures, service projects, library facilities, student organizations, recreation and wellness opportunities, and fine arts activities…among many others.

What will my education mean in the future?

Our world is challenged by circumstances that draw on all our skills and abilities. Incurable diseases, environmental breakdowns, economic fluctuations, national and international policy debates, increasing demands on K-12 education, crises in business ethics and management—these are only a few of our many challenges. To effectively face these challenges, we need a well and broadly educated community that can sort out the complexity of these issues. Knowing this, Richmond involves all of its students in applied problem solving and gives them grounding in disciplinary foundations.

Faculty and students also work beyond traditional subject boundaries to examine questions from diverse perspectives. Today’s college students will change jobs an estimated six to nine times and career fields as many as three times. Having a broad understanding of basic areas of study such as science, literature, and history, along with technological proficiency, is essential to succeeding in all fields and transitioning from one career to another.

Top employers and leadership experts agree that communication skills, teamwork skills, the ability to learn new things, and strong analytical abilities are among the most important features of a successful person. These attributes are not a product of any one major but rather of engaged learning and diverse perspectives.

It is important to explore many areas of knowledge, to build a varied skill base, and to take time to find the ideas and kinds of activities that excite and motivate you. Success and achievement in your career as well as personal happiness depend more on finding out what you enjoy doing and where your greatest abilities lie than on picking the “hottest” or “easiest” major.

How can I make the most of my Richmond education?

Students who are most fulfilled by their Richmond experience are those who are thoughtful about the courses they take. They often spend much of their first two college years exploring courses that appeal to them and give them a general academic grounding that hones their critical thinking and communication skills.

To make the most of your experience:

  • Visit with your advisor often. Come to these meetings with questions. Work with your advisor and other campus resources to explore possible avenues for study and careers, not just for picking next semester’s classes.
  • Create a balanced schedule. Be sure to take elective courses in your first two years in addition to the general education classes. You do not need to finish the general education courses by the end of your first or even second year, though it’s usually a good idea to make considerable progress on choosing and taking these courses during the first two years.

Take advantage of lectures, programs, and service activities sponsored by student and University organizations. You can find a lot of new ideas and learn a great deal about yourself and others by taking part in these activities.

Beyond the Classroom

Visit the Office of Career Services beginning your first year. It's not just for finding a job; you can also get help identifying a major, finding internships, and exploring the best path to that “dream job” — which may be a job you don’t yet know exists.

The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement can help you find ways to involve yourself in the local Richmond community through service and volunteerism.

Consider a study abroad program. There is no better way to learn about a culture other than your own or to test your independence than by spending significant time in a foreign country. Students can typically make progress toward their major/minor with the courses they take abroad, and tuition and fees are usually comparable to studying here at Richmond.

Explore student life at Richmond.