Sciences are Liberal Arts

International students (and international college counselors) sometimes think that the term “liberal arts college” means an undergraduate college focusing only on the humanities – and this is absolutely, profoundly incorrect.

Liberal arts colleges typically offer majors (concentrations) in four general disciplinary areas. One of these areas is the sciences.  Liberal arts colleges may divide their academic programs into specific departments somewhat differently from each other, but the general division of the curriculum into the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities and the arts is standard in the U.S.

The classical quadrivium included the study of geometry, mathematics and astronomy, after all.

Liberal arts colleges have an exceptional track record in preparing students for graduate study in the sciences. For example, selective liberal arts colleges successfully send more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics PhD programs, proportionally, than ANY other kind of undergraduate institution in the United States. (See “A Hot House for Female Scientists: Small Colleges, Big Results” at The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/5/2006;

Monmouth College has a vibrant array of science departments and interdisciplinary programs. Our science departments include biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science and mathematics, physics and psychology. Environmental science, an interdisciplinary program, is an increasingly popular major and a rigorous, exciting program which opens up many doors to career tracks and research fields.

Monmouth College is so convinced of the importance and effectiveness of science as a major part of the academic program of a distinguished liberal arts college that we are now in the process of completing construction on a new academic building, the Center for Science and Business. This beautiful new building will house all of our science departments. It will contain laboratories, a high-speed computing center, seminar rooms, an instructional theatre and planetarium, an observatory, a variety of student study spaces, and a greenhouse.

A liberal arts degree is exceptional preparation for advanced study in engineering, medicine and allied health fields, and computing/technology fields. Monmouth College offers pre-engineering, pre-med and allied-health preprofessional tracks. Students engaged in the pre-engineering program, for example, receive advice and guidance from the faculty advisor to the program, explore different graduate programs, and choose their sequence of undergraduate courses carefully with eventual graduate study in mind.

The depth and breadth of the science courses students take at Monmouth strengthens their application for graduate school. The fact that students major in a rigorous discipline such as biology or biochemistry while also preparing for graduate study is a plus to review committees at the graduate level. Also, Monmouth students take courses in writing and communication, in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Monmouth students have opportunities to take leadership roles in student organizations and to study abroad – and all of these opportunities to become a better, more well-rounded, more ethical and reflective person are ADVANTAGES in applications to graduate schools.

The average size of a Monmouth College class is 18 students; many science lab classes are even smaller. The personal attention science students receive here – the care and mentoring by faculty – is invaluable. Students learn not simply ‘what chemists do,’ for example, but what it feels like to be a practicing chemist. And the fact that Monmouth classes are small means that faculty members are able to write deeply informed, detailed, personalized letters of recommendation for their students. For entrance to excellent graduate programs – this matters tremendously.

Monmouth College’s focus on excellence in undergraduate education means that science students have extraordinary academic opportunities. For example, Monmouth science students engage in research with faculty members even as first-year and second-year students. Students are not prevented from engaging in substantive, hands-on research until their junior or senior year. Exactly the opposite! Here, advanced students help to mentor newer students in research teams; all science students are encouraged to join research collaboratives as soon as possible. Many students who engage in research during the academic year continue their research work over the summer, while living on campus. Some students travel with faculty members to engage in scientific research internationally. Most recently, students traveled with Professor Godde (biology) to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on a short-term research trip.

Students who are interested in majoring in a science could not do better than choose a liberal arts college for their undergraduate education. When you hear the phrase ‘liberal arts college,’ think ‘liberal arts and sciences college’!