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Exploring the Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education at FUS
Dr. David Mills introduced himself to the Franklin community last week at a memorable convocation ceremony where he espoused the benefits of a liberal arts education by referencing the history and ideological thinking begun at the University of Bologna centuries ago.
Mills explained that, as the oldest continuously operating university in the world, the University of Bologna began as a community of guilds, wherein apprentices would learn from mentors, or “masters of trade,” to learn by example and carry on cultural and sustainable art, crafts, and skills that would move Western culture forward into the future. Today, to gain a liberal arts education means to develop essential skills and mindsets that transcend any one career path, enabling one to work in a variety of areas, and empowering one to adapt, create, and innovate as the world changes.
Franklin University Switzerland offers a liberal arts-based educational model that offers students opportunities to learn from established scholars, artists, and scientists as faculty-mentors and situates them geographically and conceptually at the center of Europe, at a crossroads of philosophies and cultural traditions.
In his first keynote address as the new Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Mills highlighted four liberal arts-informed mindsets for students, staff, and faculty to embody in the upcoming academic year:
Focus on who you are becoming – Consider who you want to be at the graduation ceremony in four years and work towards that goal. A liberal arts education is more about who you are becoming than what you are becoming qualified to do.
Be an apprentice – The way students and teachers convened came from the medieval guild system, in which apprentices learned from the masters of a trade. They learned through careful mentorship by trying, failing, and trying again. Let the landmarks of Europe remind you of the long tradition of learning you are now joining. Forge meaningful relationships with your faculty.
Take care of each other – Writer Hermann Hesse, who moved to Ticino between the two World Wars, once wrote: “Life is waiting everywhere; the future is flowering everywhere, but we see only a small part of it.” Take the time to see that future in others: be kind, inclusive, and curious. Respect differences and experiences. Take the opportunity to learn with and from each other.
Stay open – Why? Ask this question repeatedly with childlike innocence, and you can get deep, fast. Aristotle reminds us that “philosophy begins in wonder.” All learning begins in wonder. It is an attitude that comes naturally with children. Be kind, be curious, be helpful.
Dr. Mills concluded his speech by sharing that Franklin is uniquely positioned to generate and reward that openness that hopefully never dies, even as we age. The basic tenets of liberal arts education at the university level are sometimes forgotten or pushed aside in favor of strictly vocational or STEM-heavy training.
Franklin University Switzerland recognizes the urgent need for practical applications to solve real-world problems, and therefore integrates theory and practice in its liberal-arts-centric approach to education in all its courses.
The truth is that a successful, possibly lucrative, liberal arts education emerges from playful curiosity encouraged by a solid understanding of multiple disciplines. Benjamin Franklin, our university’s namesake, once wrote that “an education is the investment with the greatest returns,” but what he meant by that was a well-rounded, “liberal” education and that the returns might not be immediately economic but rather intellectual or social.
In 2023, we might wonder: would Ben Franklin be content meandering through the giardino di luce (Garden of Light) on campus today?
Our hope, of course, is that he would be.