Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 4, 2016

MU Keeps Liberal Arts Curriculum in Wake of IPFW Cutbacks

Maddie Jo Shultz

If you’re at all affiliated with Manchester University, then you are most likely aware of its strong connection with, and stance regarding, liberal arts. In today’s ever-changing world, and in keeping with its mission and values, Manchester University strives to serve students who want the breadth of a liberal arts education, and to educate the whole person, ensuring his or her lifelong success.

A liberal arts degree, providing a depth of general knowledge in many subjects and developing students’ intellectual prowess, prepares college graduates for virtually all careers in addition to building a foundation for furthering their education, if applicable, in graduate school. Manchester University stresses the humanities—the typical course programs affiliated with the liberal arts—with departments in Art, English, Modern Languages (including French, German, and American Sign Language), Music, and Philosophy and Religious studies, as well as supplemental interdisciplinary offerings in Gender Studies and Peace Studies. The humanities are an important part of Manchester’s core curriculum, exposing students to diverse subjects and cultures.

At IPFW, however, things are changing. Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette announced Oct.19 that, due to restructuring, IPFW will eliminate from its curriculum five degree programs such as French, and entire departments including Philosophy and Women’s Studies. IPFW students who are currently pursuing degrees in the now-eliminated majors will either have to change programs completely or transfer to an institution that still offers the classes in these majors. Manchester offers such programs.

Thelma Rohrer, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at MU, relates her concern for IPFW as an educational institution in light of this news. She explains that a reason behind the restructuring could be that colleges and universities, especially state schools, often have to evaluate core disciplines on economic data rather than their role as integral parts of a liberal arts institution of higher learning. “This is where Manchester is different,” she says.  “Manchester’s mission is different.” As an independent institution, Manchester has the benefit of setting its own curriculum according to its mission. “We value the tradition of a liberal arts curriculum,” Rohrer says. “It’s who we are.” As taken directly from MU’s values statement, the institution is “a community of higher education rooted in the liberal arts.”

Rohrer commiserates with the current splitting of IPFW between the state schools of Purdue and IU, and recognizes the difficulty of maintaining an academic mission in the midst of such changes. However, as a school in which arts and humanities courses are central to the core, Manchester’s academic trajectory is different. Rohrer points out, “We hired a new faculty member in Philosophy last year in order to better support our liberal arts curriculum.” At Manchester, the liberal arts curriculum remains and continues to grow.

In a world where a third of Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees, the opportunity to pursue such a diverse and well-rounded education certainly takes the weight off of students’ shoulders as they fight for their futures in today’s competitive job market. Unlike IPFW, Manchester University and its mission ensures that a liberal arts education will remain available to all students who attend.