Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 502: Contemporary Issues in Liberal Studies

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Laursen

"The university seeks to stimulate in its students intellectual curiosity, ethics, imagination, rational thinking, thoughtful expression, and a love of learning. Knowledge of the humanities, social and natural sciences, and fine arts, along with effective communication and decision-making skills are central to the curriculum. Students are encouraged to develop an understanding of their own and other cultures in order to appreciate the rich variety of thought and lifestyles that form the world in which they live." (UNCW Mission Statement)

Traditionally, the purpose of GLS 502 is essentially three-fold:

  1. to examine the notion of "education" and, more specifically, to consider the value, meaning, and uses of liberal arts education;
  2. to develop students' critical and analytical skills, both in terms of oral and written communication and to familiarize students with various techniques, processes, and methods that figure into academic research across disciplines, and;
  3. to introduce students to the primary agenda - i.e., interdisciplinarity, cultural diversity and internationalism - that inform the GLS program.

Though the overall objective of this course is to work on each of the three aforementioned areas consistently and throughout the semester, the course is divided into two parts. In the beginning of the semester, we will study different ways of reading critically and writing analytically, so that you have a good understanding of what is expected of your participation, interaction and writing throughout the course. The texts we will read in the first half of the semester are handouts and course book readings dealing with the notion of "education,"cultural identity and the uses of language, hoping to formulate a broader and more comprehensive sense of education than you may have previously assumed. We will study various texts that deal with the role of learning and education, and the relevance of the liberal arts and liberal education in the twenty-first century. This preliminary focus on education gives you an opportunity to draw upon your personal "schooling" history and to share aspects of that history with other class members. It should also allow you to review your previous educational goals and to articulate, however tentatively, both your immediate goals in this course and your future goals in the GLS program or any other extended academic endeavor in which you are engaged.

To "kick you off" to the interdisciplinary essence of the GLS program, the latter part of the semester will focus upon selected readings dealing with a broad range of topics in contemporary American society and the mediated global culture. As the course title suggests, it is a significant part of this course to seek to establish a connection between our assigned readings and the current arena of local, regional, national, and international affairs, and any other academic courses you have taken. After all, real liberal arts education should be consciously and purposefully interdisciplinary and thereby should encourage a sensitivity to the interconnectedness of both major and non-major courses. To further illustrate the primary objectives for this course, upon reading the assigned texts, you are expected to "come to terms," both individually and collectively, with each of the readings; This "coming to terms" requires thoughtful interaction between you and the assigned texts, meaning that you should read into the values, beliefs, and assumptions that condition and inform a particular text and then measure those values, beliefs, and assumptions against your own. Such thoughtful interaction may lead, in some cases, to a clarification, confirmation, or possible modification of your own values, beliefs, and attitudes, or, in some cases, to a greater sense of self-understanding and self-appreciation.

Required Textbook:

The MLA Handbook, 8th Edition

Last Update: June 19, 2019