October 2011

In his Epistulae ex Ponto, the Roman poet Ovid observed that "a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel." This humanizing of character has always defined one of the central commitments of Drury University. Some pundits have argued that the importance of the liberal arts tradition has waned in the face of profound cultural and technological change. However, at Drury, we believe such changes are precisely why an outstanding education that integrates liberal and professional learning remains what Kenneth Burke called, "the most fundamental equipment for living." The centrality of the liberal arts penetrates to the most basic question of what it means to be human being, to say nothing of being an informed, engaged and productive one.

No one can decide for him or herself whether to be a human being. The only question open to us is whether we will be undeveloped ones or ones who have sought to realize our full intellectual and moral potential. As Robert Maynard Hutchins, former President of the University of Chicago, put it, "The question, in short, is whether we will be poor liberal artists or good ones."

As you will see in what follows, the Drury University community has spent much of the past three years developing a new general education curriculum, one that builds on, but also improves, our signature Global Perspectives 21 curriculum. Implemented in 1995, GP21 has served Drury students exceptionally well and received substantial national attention. We also recognized, however, that the world, our students' roles in it and the ways in which we can teach and learn out it have changed dramatically since that time. Our new general education curriculum, The Drury Core: Engaging our World, which will greet the incoming class of 2012, marks the maturation of Drury's general education curriculum from the important, but passive, view of encouraging a global perspective to one that asks of us that we commit to becoming globally engaged.

As we cultivate the intellectual virtues of critical and reflective thought, we must always be mindful of the "ends" to which those virtues can most constructively be put. Our architecture students understand that they design not simply buildings, but homes that are parts of communities and nations, which leave traces, however grand or humble, on the earth. Our business students understand that their entrepreneurial drive can indeed generate wealth from goods and services while simultaneously serving the common good. Our philosophy students understand that their reflections on human virtue and the basis of human knowledge can serve to inform and inspire meaningful public policy change and social action.

In short, then, a Drury education has always been and will always remain focused on "the big ideas," ideas which do not simply pile up, but rather add up. A Drury education adds up to a more meaningful understanding of ourselves, the world(s) around us, our relationships in and to that world, and of our collective responsibility to leave it better than we first encountered it. That is the essence of engaged liberal learning – and the essence of Drury.

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Charles Taylor
Vice President for Academic Affairs