Boston University’s ‘One BU’ Report Explores Broadening Liberal Arts Education

Contact: Tom Testa, 617/353-2240 | ttesta@bu.edu

(Boston) — A Boston University task force, led by BU Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Victor Coelho, has released a blueprint exploring how the University can expand its undergraduate experience by way of re-examining the role a liberal arts education plays in today’s world. The 42-page report called “One BU: Unlocking the Undergraduate Experience,” outlines how expanding undergraduate opportunities through the integration of curricular and co-curricular activities across BU’s schools and programs will encourage students to take part in cross-disciplinary studies.

“A liberal arts education is a way to discover lifelong vocational interests by providing a different perspective on how knowledge is used and created in the real world,” said Boston University Provost David Campbell. “BU’s broad lineup of professional and liberal arts schools is what distinguishes it from liberal arts colleges. This differentiation is the BU advantage.”

Comprised of deans, faculty members, administrators, and students, the 17-member committee placed a heavy emphasis on bridging the divide between BU’s liberal arts and professional schools.

“The University has an obligation to prepare students for lifelong learning and research,” said Coelho. “A broad liberal arts education, combined with a solid background in a specific professional area, will allow students to pivot between careers and increase their intellectual and vocational options.”

The sixty recommendations in the Report include the creation and expansion of introductory — or gateway — courses in order to gain broad knowledge of specific fields, and proposes new models to bring together students in the liberal arts and professional programs and allow them to work on collaborative research. This would allow for open dialogue between professional schools and the liberal arts and sciences. Students would continue to satisfy requirements for existing majors, while taking advantage of a new interdisciplinary structure.

Drawing on a list of some 7,000 courses, committee members also recommended grouping related courses from different schools into thematically based clusters. For example, students interested in the environment might take classes in environmental political activism, geology, and Henry David Thoreau.

Additionally, the committee recommends offering combined undergraduate and graduate degrees, increased access to the Arts, the achieving of a greater global and technology competencies, expanding entrepreneurial education beyond the School of Management, and offering science courses that address relationships between numeracy, society, technology, public policy and ethics.

“We’re confident that the implementation of these suggestions will improve our opportunities to make BU a more intellectually exciting place for our students,” Campbell adds. “Without sacrificing any rigor in their education, we hope to give them a competitive advantage and enhance our ability to attract top-notch students.”

To read the complete “One BU: Unlocking the Undergraduate Experience” report, please visit www.bu.edu/unlock

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.