We Open Minds

“Liberal arts” is the term used most often to describe the dominant approach to higher education in America wherein the aim is to educate the “whole person” and students are expected to gain a deep understanding of a variety of disciplines beyond their major academic focus, as well as an appreciation of how these many disciplines inter-relate. Key to this approach are the “general education” requirements which insure that each student takes a broad range of specific courses as part of their graduation requirements. At Wenzhou-Kean University many of these courses are housed in the College of Liberal Arts. Subjects such as political science, communication, history, economics, philosophy and art history are not yet part of a major (with their own department) at WKU but serve the important function of helping students satisfy this graduation requirement.

 

Being a very young university, the College of Liberal Arts is constantly monitoring student interests and desires in regard to the development of new majors. Psychology was added just two years ago and has been popular with many of our highest scoring new students. WKU is also on the forefront in developing minors that students can take in addition to their majors, a practice that is very common in the U.S. but very rare in China. Another special feature of study at WKU, making it different from practically every other university in China, is the ability to change majors. Unlike most other schools where a student must finish their degree in the same major that they had upon entering, students at WKU have the option to change majors (with some restrictions) after they have studied for some time. At WKU, we understand that students coming right out of high school often lack the knowledge about various fields, or even their own interests and talents, to make the right choice in a major academic focus.

 

General education courses also play an important role in helping students discover what fields of endeavor are actually available out in the ever-changing world. Often, students only discover in the second year or later, that there are exciting academic and professional directions they had never imagined before, and this often happens while taking a general education course that lies outside a student’s declared major.  One early and excellent example of this increasing scope of interest can be seen in a member of our first graduating class in 2016, Zhou Xiaogao. As an English major, Xiaogao was introduced to research methodology in the social sciences and, in subsequent projects, discovered both a passion and talent that propelled him beyond graduation and into an MA program in Sociology at University of Chicago, where he is now a Ph.D. candidate in the same field. More recently, four Finance majors took a new, elective (General Education) course in Econometrics, and discovered new directions in their educational path. One is now in a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at State University of New York – Stony Brook. Another is working on an MA in Applied Statistics at Pennsylvania State University, with two others at Washington University and University of Wisconsin, Madison pursuing Master’s degrees in Finance-Quantitative (MSFQ) and Economics, respectively.

 

In this quickly changing world, with new academic disciplines, sciences and professional directions constantly coming into creation, it is especially important for young people to keep alert, partly for the field that will bring them most success, but also to find the most exciting and gratifying direction that is appropriate for them as individuals. We at WKU are proud to encourage and support students in this process of self-discovery and learning about the world in all its variation.

 

—Dean. David Purnell