Katie Paulson '18 on Why Study the Liberal Arts
Times Higher Education: What is it like to study at a liberal arts college?
What makes a liberal arts education so attractive to students? Katie Paulson '18, an Honors candidate majoring in English literature with a minor in classics from Madison, Wisc., shares her experience with London-based Times Higher Education:
Liberal arts colleges such as Swarthmore College offer a personal academic experience. In my three and a half years here, I have never taken a course enrolled with more than 35 students, and the majority of my courses have fewer than 10 students.
In these small classes, we fully engage with the subjects we study. Rather than listening to a professor summarize the points made by philosophers, students take charge of discussions, citing passages in texts and asking questions that move the class forward.
Twice in a seminar last spring, I led a four-hour discussion, once on T. S. Eliot’s poetry and once on James Joyce’s Ulysses, and the responsibility of leading a seminar forced me to take charge of my own education, as well as that of my peers. I’ve found that education feels most empowering when students are required to contribute a high level of dedication and preparation in order to make the education happen at all. You cannot learn passively at Swarthmore.
The intimate environment of Swarthmore extends beyond classes. Almost all of the nearly 1,600 students live in dorms on campus for all four years, an experience that provides an education of its own. The campus feels very much like home.