Why a Christian, liberal arts education

Last Updated 6 April, 2016

by Burton Webb, Vice President for Academic Affairs

Think about all that has happened in the world since your child was born. Benoit College runs an interesting list each fall, but let’s cut to the chase. The rate of change in the last 18 years has been accelerating with no end in sight. The uncomfortable truth is that the job your child will have in their 40s probably doesn’t exist yet, and if it does, it will probably change significantly by the time they reach that age. So, what kind of education will best prepare them for a world where technology, culture and employment change at an incredible pace?

Students today (and adults of tomorrow) must be able to learn, unlearn and relearn. About two years ago my wife was driving in Seattle with my daughter (she was 25). My wife was lost trying to find their hotel in the maze of roads that are common to any city that borders an irregular coastline. Our daughter was navigating...sort-of. You see her GPS is woefully out of date and many of the roads were under construction. My wife pulled over and handed her an old-fashioned atlas. Our daughter just looked at her with that “you have to be kidding” stare that daughters are so very good at generating. You see, our daughter had never read a map, nor had she ever owned a smartphone. Our daughter was locked into an outdated GPS.

The key difference between a liberal arts education and the education offered by most state universities, community colleges and for-profit colleges isn’t in the chemistry classroom. The content of organic chemistry is nearly the same wherever you take it. The difference is in the breadth and integration of knowledge offered at a liberal arts college. Although some of the courses might seem less relevant at the time they are taken, over the course of four years the classes and the interactions with professors and fellow students form a way of thinking that is distinctively broad, creative and innovative. In other words, the liberal arts education prepares students to learn, unlearn and relearn the skills and knowledge they need for a lifetime. My daughter, who experienced a Christian liberal arts education, possesses the skills necessary to bridge the knowledge gap. Since that day in Seattle, she has been able to bridge the gap, learning both how to use an atlas and a smartphone. Linking old technology with new in a way that makes her better able to navigate the world around her. In a sense, that's what a liberal arts education is all about—learn, unlearn, relearn.

In addition to knowledge and skill, there is a third factor that is critical for students and adults in the 21st century and beyond. At NNU we train students to view the world through a distinctly Christian lens. We embed our deep understanding of faith within the curricula, live it in the residence halls, embody it during sporting events, and even carry it with us out into the world through internships, student teaching and service. You won’t find that at “state U” or your local community college. Students learn that all of life is an act of worship to God; it’s not just the music they sing on Sunday morning. Imagine how that will inform their choices. Imagine the kind of people they will become.

​A university education is an investment in the future. Yes, the jobs and income our alumni can acquire are important and significant. Any college education can prepare them for the world of work; but an education of the whole person—like the one NNU offers—will prepare them for a meaningful, worship-filled life intertwined with that work. We will help them hear their calling. After all, isn’t that what we want for our children? It’s what I gave to mine.