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Preparing for global citizenship through a liberal arts education

Soka University of America
Source: Soka University of America

There’s a reason why liberal arts education has an enduring and formidable presence in American higher education. With flexible major combinations that favour expansion of the mind instead of conformity and rote memorisation, its graduates are equipped with versatile skills that can fit in a range of diverse careers. After all, why choose a single area of study, when you can do more and indulge in your curiosities? 

Whether your interest lies in cybersecurity or mediaeval literature, a liberal arts programme allows you to pursue both. Since this form of education emphasises discussions and the exchange of ideas, classes tend to be smaller, which gives you greater interactivity with your peers and professors. You gain critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills along the way, which are in-demand 21st century skills listed by the World Economic Forum.  

If you’re ready to adopt a broader perspective of the world, here are four institutions that will elevate your American study experience: 

Soka University of America

Soka University of America

The campus in Aliso Viejo is a hub for intercultural understanding and critical thinking to prepare students for leadership in a rapidly changing world. Source: Soka University of America

Ranked among the top 30 national liberal arts colleges in 2022, this Southern California-based institution embodies the expansiveness of liberal arts studies in all aspects of university life. Since its beginnings in 1987, Soka University of America has offered a rigorous education that sparks dynamic conversations to help graduates become outstanding global citizens.

At SUA, knowledge comes alive through impactful, dialogue-based learning where the viewpoints of each student are valued and heard. True to the humanistic principles of SUA’s founding philosophy, the university prioritises character growth alongside students’ intellectual development.

Soka undergraduates can map their own educational trajectory, drawing upon international cultures and unique experiences. With an interdisciplinary curriculum rooted in multicultural perspectives, students can choose one of five concentrations when pursuing their liberal arts degree.

A key feature of SUA’s international learning is its hallmark study abroad experience, which is required for all undergraduate students during their third year. At no extra cost, students spend a semester in a thoughtfully selected program learning Japanese, Chinese, French, or Spanish. They fully immerse themselves in the culture and language of their host country, thus honing their adaptability as world-savvy changemakers.

An SUA student’s day-to-day life is never dull — half of the 450-strong undergraduate student body are international students, fostering a dynamic cross-cultural community. Southern California’s recreational bounty, from world-class beaches and rugged hiking trails to Disneyland and Hollywood, is easily accessible. With numerous opportunities for leadership and service engagement, student clubs, and career services, SUA is a launchpad for lifelong success. If you’re ready to make the world your classroom, click here to learn more about the university.

Salem College

Salem College

Salem College’s all-women undergraduate class is a springboard for its dynamic students to make their mark in the world after graduation. Source: Salem College, Facebook

Nestled in a small-town North Carolina atmosphere, Salem College boasts a proud history of being the oldest educational institution for girls and women in the US. Today, this four-year liberal arts college is home to a close-knit community of 1,100 women from all over the world. True to its values that nurture independence for women, students at the college are leaders, athletes, artists, and scholars that have the freedom to explore who they want to become. 

With majors that include a mixture of subjects across the board such as Dance, Health Sciences, Nonprofit Management and Community Leadership, and Business Studies, students embark on an exploratory journey that shapes them into problem-solvers who are ready for real-life challenges. The learning experience is further augmented through the college’s areas of distinction, which include initiatives such as Women in Science and Mathematics, Centre for Women in Business, and the Honours Programme

Students who are in good academic standing are eligible to take part in the college’s study abroad programme. This experiential opportunity is done with partner organisations in other countries, and is counted towards a student’s academic credits. Students have the chance to live what they learn and grow into agile and culturally-competent leaders through programmes done in the summer or January term, or for an entire semester.

Aside from having a vibrant academic life, Salem College students are active participants in the community through the Student Government Association, in addition to memberships in over fifty clubs and activities available on campus — which ultimately foster leadership, confidence, and community-building that they carry through beyond their college years. 

Bloomfield College

Bloomfield College

Bloomfield College is where students of all backgrounds are given the tools to succeed through quality programmes and excellent campus services. Source: Bloomfield College

Bloomfield College in New Jersey welcomes students from all walks of life: it is one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country, and was ranked highest in the state for social mobility in 2021 according to the US News and World Report. With high success rates in bettering students’ economic standings, the college epitomises the best of education by creating opportunities for underprivileged students to excel in life. 

A predominantly Black and Hispanic college, Bloomfield’s commitment to ensure educational accessibility means that graduates can expect a transformative education that prepares them for exemplary civic engagement in a transcultural and diverse community. 

It’s a place where learning results in personal enrichment and career-readiness, offered through over 50 majors that encompass programmes in business, humanities, creative arts and technology, natural sciences and mathematics, nursing, as well as social and behavioural sciences. 

Over 35 nationalities are represented in its student community, reflecting the college’s commitment to diversity and fostering global competence. Overseas students are supported and cared for by the faculty and the International Student Advisor for a smooth-sailing transition into American college life, with academic and athletic scholarships up for grabs for those who meet the criteria. 

Bloomfield’s Fostering Student Success programme —which uses a multi-intervention approach to address gaps in student development — is what sets it apart from other liberal arts colleges in terms of graduate employability for local students. International students enjoy similar assistance through the college’s Centre for Student Success to effectively address a spectrum of needs for the best career and learning outcomes. 

New College Florida

New College of Florida

At New College Florida, students can participate in local and international exchange programmes to deepen their understanding of the world. Source: New College of Florida

As Florida’s “honours college for the liberal arts,” the New College of Florida (NCF) aims to provide an undergraduate education of the highest calibre to students from all over the world. Set on a beautiful 110-acre campus on sunny Sarasota Bay, NCF offers undergraduate programmes — with more than 40 majors and over 300 courses — where you can even design your own areas of concentration. 

Small classes of 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio at NCF result in increased personalised attention, where students are given the space to flourish. Outside of the classroom, students are geared for their dream careers, graduate schools, or fellowships through the Centre for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO), where holistic support from resume coaching to mock interviews are easily accessible. The CEO matches each student with a career counsellor even before they set foot on campus.

The study abroad and exchange programmes propel NCF students to step up their intercultural fluency by participating in hands-on fieldwork. Students typically study in 20 to 25 countries annually while earning transferable credits that count towards their overall degree. Local exchanges with partner institutions are also another option that NCF students can pursue, which are equally meaningful in broadening their educational perspectives.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International