Liberal Arts Key to Preparing Leaders: US Educator

By Bhimanto Suwastoyo on 05:40 pm Sep 04, 2013
Category Education
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Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College — a Christian liberal arts school in the US state of Illinois — during his visit to Jakarta. (JG Photo)

In a fast changing world, a liberal arts education provides the necessary foundation to prepare future leaders for a flexible professional life, a US educator said on Wednesday.

“We believe that there are a lot of reasons why [liberal arts] provide the best educational preparation for a leader,” said Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College — a Christian liberal arts college located in Illinois — during a visit to the BeritaSatu Media Holdings headquarters in Jakarta.

“One of the reasons is that most of our graduates, over the course of their professional lives, will work in a variety of different jobs, including jobs that have yet to be invented.”

Ryken said Wheaton has continued to offer a liberal arts curriculum that provides broad preparation in written and oral communication, philosophy, history, literature, social science and foreign languages, even as many colleges and universities move toward more professionalized curricula.

Wheaton of Illinois is one of hundreds of liberal arts institutions in the United States. Unlike most liberal arts colleges, Wheaton has a specifically Christian mission: “Through everything we do, we seek to discover Christ’s kingdom in our midst, and in the world around us,” the school’s website reads. Ryken is an ordained Christian minister and a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Tuition at Wheaton costs $30,120 per year, and room and board costs $8,560, before financial aid. The Fiske Guide to Colleges ranked the school among the US private liberal arts colleges that offer the best value.

“The more skills [students] have in critical thinking, the better communicators they are, and the more flexible they are in their approach to learning, the better they are able to make those flexible adjustments over a lifetime of work,” Ryken said.

While Wheaton’s liberal arts curriculum may be old-fashioned, he assured that the college was by no means stuck in the past.

“Our classroom pedagogy has more approaches than ever before,” he said. “We don’t only provide lecture formats; skilled instructors also bring digital media into class to enhance the learning environment.”

Students and faculty members at Wheaton live in the same complex and share many communal activities. The student-to-faculty ratio is 1:11.

At present, about  40 percent of the college’s students pursue academic credit in a cross-cultural and international settings at some point during their undergraduate careers.

“We’d like to see [that figure] grow to 80 percent, though it is going to take a lot of partnerships to grow in that area,” he said.

His visit to Indonesia was part of the college’ efforts to widen its network of institutions and educators outside of the US.