A well-rounded education

April 22, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The year is 1894 and the place is a classroom in Penn State's original Old Main, where a professor is teaching students United States history. The wall map at left shows Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah -- all still as territories. On the blackboard at right are notes on the U.S. Constitution.

Although most Penn State students of that era were enrolled in engineering and other technical majors, they were required to take courses in the humanities as part of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act's mandate to offer instruction that would "promote liberal and practical education." History and other humanities courses formed an essential part of the land-grant curriculum.

History itself, as a major, was allied with political science until the two were organized as separate departments in 1940. By then, the School of the Liberal Arts overshadowed both engineering and agriculture in undergraduate enrollment, after for some years being treated "as a stepsister rather than given equal rights" by the other academic units, according to Penn State historian Wayland Dunaway. Today the College of the Liberal Arts offers programs in more than 45 fields of study.

 

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Last Updated April 23, 2015