Scope and Mission
The mission of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is to foster excellence in the disciplines and several interdisciplinary fields of intellectual inquiry and creative achievement that constitute the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the mathematical sciences. Because these disciplines form the intellectual core of liberal learning, the College plays a central role in enabling the University to fulfill its mission to transmit, expand, and apply knowledge through teaching, research, and professional service. Specifically, it is the aim of the College
- to promote the development of a scholarly climate conducive to the intellectual growth of all members of the University community;
- to provide undergraduate instruction of high quality in those fundamental academic subjects which are essential to a strong liberal arts and sciences education and upon which students may build both careers and enriched personal lives;
- to offer graduate programs that are highly regarded in their respective disciplines and that prepare graduate students to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to assume positions of leadership as university faculty or in other chosen professions;
- to foster significant research and scholarly activities in these disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields of scholarship, thus maintaining a faculty whose contributions to the expansion of knowledge command national and even international respect;
- to encourage faculty to share their academic and research expertise in professional and service activities.
Although each of these aims may be viewed as a distinct and essential responsibility of a quality institution of higher education, the College also sees them as interrelated. For instance, the graduate programs are carried out so as to enrich and expand the horizons of the undergraduate programs; the teaching expertise of the faculty is directly related to their active participation in the further development of their respective fields.
To achieve its goals, the College supports instructional and research programs designed to develop fundamental skills and capabilities and to broaden intellectual horizons in the major fields of the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the mathematical sciences as well as in emerging new areas of interdisciplinary study. The College also supports instructional and research programs designed to prepare superior candidates in its disciplines for initial teacher certification. In all of its activities, the College seeks to nurture the intellectual growth of its undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty through the discovery, synthesis, and dissemination of new knowledge and creative work.
Inherent in the execution of this mission is the free exchange of ideas. In order to promote such an exchange, the College is strongly committed to an environment of academic freedom in which all faculty and students are free to inquire and to disseminate scholarly and creative contributions.
In fulfilling its complex mission, the College acknowledges its special responsibility for undergraduate education. Through its general education and other service courses, the College provides an intellectual foundation that enables students from all colleges of the University to obtain a liberal education and to strengthen the commitment to lifelong learning. Since the pursuit of knowledge does not end with graduation, the College also believes that it has a responsibility to assist all students in learning how to learn. Through its introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses, majors in the College gain specialized expertise in a liberal arts and sciences discipline. In its courses the College provides an opportunity for students to develop both an historical as well as a contemporary perspective on current problems by fostering an awareness of the social, political, economic, linguistic, and cultural arrangements that underlie modern society. Acknowledging the connections that exist among the disciplines, the College is committed to interdisciplinary study and to developing in students an integrated perspective that permits them to view the courses they take and the disciplines they study as interconnected parts of a rational whole. For example, the liberal arts and sciences are viewed as contributing both to one's self-understanding as well as to the recognition of one's relationship to the natural world in which we live. Although the College believes that achieving this integrated perspective is valuable for its own sake, the College also emphasizes the utility of such a perspective in solving practical problems.
The College believes that undergraduate liberal education is best achieved by means of a highly qualified faculty who exhibit a wide array of backgrounds and experience. Accordingly, the College is committed to promoting excellence and diversity in the University community by undertaking a program to attract and retain the highest quality faculty while at the same time taking steps to achieve a culturally diverse student body and faculty.
Recognizing that a broadened perspective is an essential component of liberal education, the College seeks to free students from the limitations of narrow intellectual and cultural boundaries and to enable them to pass beyond the constraints of vocationalism. Both on and off campus, the College encourages its students to widen their focus from entry-level job training to preparation for life-long careers as free citizens actively engaged in the cultural, political, economic, scientific, and technological dimensions of contemporary society. To bring this about, the College seeks to acquaint students with the substance and history of many diverse cultures by making accessible the literature, values, folklore, and beliefs of diverse societies. The College is committed to helping students to appreciate the multicultural heritage of their own country as well as to understand the rapidly changing international environment, thus preparing them for their role as informed citizens in a global society.
A liberal education requires more than mere exposure to subject matter. Thus the College places considerable emphasis on active learning by developing in students the ability to gather and evaluate evidence, to formulate and solve problems, and to present findings in an articulate fashion, both orally and in writing. The College seeks to develop in students a sense of intellectual autonomy, an analytical spirit, and an aptitude for critical assessment.
To carry out the College's mission, the responsibilities of the College must extend both to current students and to the University's service region. College faculty are expected to engage in basic and applied research that expands human knowledge and preserves our scientific and cultural heritages. Faculty apply their academic and research expertise in wide-ranging professional and service activities that respond to the needs of local, state, national, and international communities. The expertise, insights, and knowledge generated through academic teaching and research help societal groups and leaders improve the quality of life, while the research, technical assistance, and in-service training supported by the College serve to increase effectiveness and productivity at all levels of the public and private sectors. Through its numerous programs of public lectures, seminars, and other presentations by nationally and internationally renowned experts, the College serves as a leading force in enriching the intellectual life of the campus and the community. This is yet another way in which the College helps to fulfill the University's mission to expand the contribution of higher education to the citizens of Illinois.