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B. A. Mercer University’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies is an individualized and self-designed multidisciplinary program of study. The program includes a combination of arts, sciences, history, religion, literature, mathematics, cultural studies and liberal studies courses along with specific concentration courses. It requires a total of 120 semester hours for completion which consists of 39 hours of general education courses, 18 hours of core courses, 39 elective hours and 24 hours in your chosen area(s) of concentration. The six Liberal Studies core courses are designed to broaden academic perspective, promote constructive and critical thinking, and equip degree seekers with the skills to read, write, understand and interpret any form of literature effectively. One or two areas of concentration may be chosen from the following options: American Studies, Communication Studies, Education Studies, Historical Studies, Humanities Studies, Literary Studies, Religious Studies, Social-Science, Writing, and Women’s and Gender Studies. The Liberal Studies program is ideal for a wide range of students because it opens the door for a vast number of professions as well as further academic studies.
Being a Liberal Studies major was the best choice for me for a number of reasons. For starters, the Liberal Studies program allowed me the option of transferring 90 hours of coursework that I completed at a previous university. This was beneficial for because I didn’t have to start over completely on my mission to obtain my bachelor’s degree. This also meant less financial debt that I would accrue. Another reason I decided that Liberal Studies was the right path for me is because I had the freedom to tailor my degree if my goals changed due to the various areas of concentrations offered within the program. One of the greatest values in being a liberal studies major is that it allows you to branch off into various career fields. A wide variety of professions are available to students who obtain a Liberal Studies degree. Having that flexibility was of immeasurable value to me because although I’d decided to press forward with my personal goal of completing my bachelor’s degree after an 11-year break, I was still undecided on my professional goals.
My journey as a Liberal Studies major began due to being highly recommended from a, then, current Liberal Studies student of Mercer. With much thought, and some hesitation due to a gentle warning about the massive amount of reading and writing required, within days I followed through on the recommendation and found myself arriving for orientation two weeks later. Upon my arrival at Mercer University, I chose to major in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Communication Studies. I simply wanted to achieve my long-time personal goal of earning my bachelor’s, and in the shortest time possible. Besides, communication is an indispensable skill for any profession. As time progressed, I made changes within my work life which lead to my making changes with, or rather solidifying my professional goals. I went from years of working in the banking industry to an elementary school. I soon realized I’d found my niche. I then decided that my major would now be Liberal Studies with dual concentrations in Communication Studies and Education Studies. By adding the Education Studies concentration, I am able to gain academic course study in this relevant and specific to my career goal without having to take the route of pursuing a separate undergraduate degree in Education. I will be able to transition into a graduate program in Education with a familiar and broad perspective of the coursework. Having the dual concentration in Education Studies also serves the advantage of marketability for potential job prospects in education. Upon being awarded my bachelor’s degree, the next career goal I am considering is to pursue Mercer’s Master of Arts in Teaching.
The Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies allowed me, along with my faculty advisor’s guidance, the ability to tailor my degree path to fit my academic and professional goals, even as my goals changed. The academic courses in the Liberal Studies program are challenging, yet in a rewarding. Some of the most intellectually stimulating courses I have taken within the major has been LBST 280 – Argument: Studies in Public Discourse and Citizenship, LBST 303 – Issues/Justice in Global Community and COMM 450 – Textual Criticism: Common Sense and Critical Theory Approaches to Interpretation. Each course challenged me deeply and differently. LBST 280 – Argument: Studies in Public Discourse and Citizenship, focused on the proper constructs to engage in critique and respond to arguments regarding the death penalty. What I found to be the most challenging from this course was being able to critically make an evidence-supported argument in support of the death penalty. On the last day of this course, the class gathered to watch a television film titled “The Exonerated”. The Exonerated is a film, based on a stage play, that dramatizes the true stories of six people who have been wrongfully convicted of murder and other offenses, placed on death row, and later exonerated and freed after serving varying years in prison. This heartbreaking film opened my eyes to the failings of our justice system. The discussions and assignments in LBST 280 challenged me to understand that I am able to analyze and construct arguments based on evidence despite my opposing personal perspectives.
LBST 303 – Issues of Justice in a Global Community, focused on discussing the concepts of race as an issue of ethics and social justice across the globe. In this course, we studied “Birth of a White Nation” a book written by Jacqueline Battalora. This text was profoundly written and interesting to read. Even more interesting was the author’s argument that the group of humanity called “white” was made and socially constructed. What I found to be somewhat challenging in this course, was my initial reservation of speaking openly and candidly in discussions about issues of race because I didn’t want to unintentionally offend anyone. The professor who facilitated this course did so with the utmost respect, conveying the need, not only for our class but for our nation to be able to discuss, research and become engaged in the issues around us. In this course, I learned a personally enriching skill of how to model a civil conversation on issues that are often ignored or by-passed.
COMM 450 – Textual Criticism: Common Sense and Critical Theory Approaches to Interpretation, focused on the use of common sense critical approaches, deconstructive criticism and semantics to interpret texts. While all of the assignments were interesting, the most interesting assignment of them all was the final paper. The assignment was to choose a song or poem and provide a detailed and unique interpretation of the text’s meaning utilizing the information taught throughout the course. My text of choice was the lyrics to “Be Our Guest”, a song from Walt Disney’s animated film Beauty and the Beast. The song was designed to be understood as a performance by “the Beast’s” castle’s staff of enchanted objects attempting to welcome Belle. Through the use of semantic and deconstructive criticism, I was able to successfully convey an interpretation which suggested the text was referring to services being offered to the clientele of brothel. Since taking this course, I have not looked at textual communication the same. This course implored a creative challenge within me that significantly enhance my skills as a communicator, interpreter, analyzer, and writer. I love being a Liberal Studies major at Mercer because I have the capability of engaging in thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations not only with my professors but also my student colleagues. I am urged to engage in a wealth of experiences that come with challenging the way I view the world. I’m allowed to examine how different personal experiences uniquely affect one’s perspective and opinions of the world around them, and I’m encouraged to think deeply as a tool that has helped me to find my own voice and opinions. Yes, there is a lot of reading and writing in my major, but I also think and analyze collaboratively, critically, and comprehensively. For prospective students, I would say: Prepare to be challenged and inspired.
Liberal Studies courses require an open mindset, one that can dig deep into preexisting ideas and question its validity. You are learning from many professors with various background disciplines. Being receptive to their vastly diverse views may be challenging but rewarding. You will soon find that these vast backgrounds complement each other in ways that you never thought possible. My biggest advice is to keep an opened mind and to ask questions; the more questions you ask, the better. Liberal Studies is a relatively new degree program. It has only been around for about half a century, so it is still growing in many areas. All in all, as a Liberal Studies major you will experience a great deal of intellectually inspiration and challenge; Allow the experience to carry you forward into excellence.
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