A Distinctive Style of Liberal Arts Education
A Distinctive Style of Liberal-Arts Education
Viewed from today's vantage point, our founder, Dr. Benjamin Rush, had an uncanny ability to forecast the needs of our times. Perhaps that is because change, inclusiveness and adaptability to the demands of an evolving people were the key components of Rush's concept of a distinctively Dickinson style of liberal-arts education.
Rush envisioned a “useful” liberal-arts curriculum that would allow graduates to be fluent in a wider world. He argued strongly for the inclusion of modern languages. The choice of French and German—the languages of diplomacy and trade—suggests that from the beginning Dickinson was opened on the world and an important part of its purpose was the training of graduates who could be direct players in international affairs.
Rush also viewed the sciences as a linchpin of this pioneering American education—knowing that the sciences would create new knowledge necessary to fuel discovery and bring preeminence to America. He simultaneously acknowledged the incompleteness of the American democratic experiment at its founding, and called for the study of Native-American languages and cultures and advocated broader opportunities for women and African Americans.
From these defining 18th-century assets come the key characteristics of today's distinctively Dickinson liberal-arts education for the 21st century.
A Dickinson education is:
A Community of Inquiry — In keeping with the College's origins in the American Revolution, Dickinson encourages students to value and challenge inherited wisdom and belief, to relish constructive debate of diverse ideas, to participate in the creation of new knowledge and new understanding.
Connected — Dickinson demands that students cross borders—intellectual, geographical, social, spiritual and cultural—and practice “connectivity.” This means solving problems by making connections among insights and experiences from a variety of fields. Where others may see only complexity and chaos, Dickinsonians see patterns, solutions and opportunities to successfully navigate the 21st century.
Global — At Dickinson, a global vision permeates the entire student experience in and out of the classroom. Dickinson was named one of the six most “internationalized” schools in the country and was cited by the American Council on Education as having one of the most outstanding global curricula in America—the only liberal-arts college so honored. Offering 13 foreign languages, Dickinson ranks first nationwide in the proportion of foreign-language majors graduating from college. Two-thirds of all courses incorporate a global perspective. Thirteen study centers, staffed by Dickinson faculty and advisers, are an extension of the College on foreign soil. More than half the student body studies abroad. Dickinson offers study-abroad programs specifically designed for science majors, who at other institutions are usually excluded because of their sequential curricular requirements. International students, exchange students from the College's study centers, and more than a dozen visiting international professors each year make Dickinson a truly international campus.
Enterprising and Active — Dickinson prepares students to be active, engaged citizens of the world who use their liberal-arts education as a powerful agent of change to advance the lot of humankind. Our definition of citizenship is drawn from the College's roots in the American Revolutionary era. Characterized by great initiative, ingenuity and energy, a citizen-leader acts in the context of a sense of community and home, self-governance, respect for and service to ideals greater than the individual self. Above all, a Dickinson education must imbue in each student a commitment to fulfill Benjamin Rush's foremost vision—to lead meaningful professional and personal lives that will uphold the foundations of a just and compassionate democratic society.
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