Augsburg University is a liberal arts university of almost 150 years of history with approximately 3,500 students however the class size is around 10 to 20 per class in my experience.

Liberal arts is the idea that you will need a basic set of knowledge in just about everything. For Augsburg University that meant that I had to take two science classes (one with a lab), two humanities classes, two arts classes and two consecutive classes of a language, along with my major and minor requirements. Augsburg also wove the idea of vocation in every one of my classes, which I am now realizing is another facet of liberal arts. Vocation is an old religious concept but it can be summed up as “where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” made famous by Frederick Buechner.

greg1Gregory Lewis is a graduate of Augsburg University and is now working in UIC’s
Division of Business and Management (DBM) as a Foreign Intern since September 2017.

For me this statement came true in both of my majors; however, it was more present in my International Business degree. We were talking about how integrated our economies have become during one of my classes, and we went from talking about business models to talking about basic economic principles.

Then someone brought up the idea of social entrepreneurship and how communities could raise themselves out of poverty rather than using the current system of aid. In that discussion we talked about how several corporations have had to use basic liberal arts systems of thinking such as requiring people to have a second language as well as an understanding of different cultures and basic business practices. At the core of these corporations doing this, they have people who truly believe that they can do good and that this is their vocation. Liberal arts gave me the sense to push this further and see how other places in the world are solving these issues as well as meet people from different backgrounds, in order to better tackle my own vocation.

greg2Greg receiving a graduation certification from College Possible,
which is a non-profit college access programme.

Once I got to UIC and started working as a teaching assistant (TA), I noticed that even here there was constant talk about what the student needs to do to become a better person rather than just being business oriented. In my particular section in the T1 building, I’ll walk by a professor’s office that has on their door a quotation from Albert Einstein saying “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” I’m in 100% agreement with this so when I counsel students on course work I try to push them further in their thinking.

Instead of stopping at the concept that I’m teaching, I want to push past that and I find myself asking students why. I’ll often follow up with “Why?” This gets the students to think beyond the mere concept that I’m teaching them in class, and allows them to put it in their life so they can discern their own vocation by tackling the question of what they are drawn to.

Studying liberal arts and putting what I’ve learned into practice has been a positive experience. Liberal arts give you the tools to find out what you want to do with your life as well as learning how to go after what you want. When we come across things that we don’t know, we know how to study them because we have a basis in everything. The liberal arts create not just positive social workers or skilled doctors but also great people for the modern society as a whole.

In sum, the liberal arts let us explore who we really are and what we want to achieve in a way that no sole discipline could.

(You are welcome to share your views on Liberal Arts and email MPRO at mpro@uic.edu.hk.)

Written by Gregory Lewis
(republished from UIC magazine New Dimensions Issue 5)

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