School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Why do we study math, history, languages, the natural sciences and the fine arts? At Ouachita, we recognize that in the world God created all of these areas are interconnected. While we separate them to create major fields of study, we also emphasize through Ouachita's CORE program that we have something to learn from each one and from connections among them. This seamless approach to education encourages the development of critical thinking skills and enhances our natural curiosity about the world in which we live. While your major will prepare you for the rigors of a particular field of study, the CORE will give you added skills and knowledge which will advance your career and enrich your life.
— Danny Hays, Survey of the Bible & Interpreting the Bible
The Concepts of Wellness course provides students the opportunity to work toward and practice healthier lifestyle habits in their daily college routine. Emphasis is placed on proper nutritional choices for students and how to maintain/improve their physical fitness levels by setting realistic goals to enhance students' self-confidence and self-esteem.
— Sally Dann, Concepts of Wellness
I think the Interdisciplinary Studies Program provides students with some of the most important knowledge and skills for life. The material and abilities learned in these courses will prepare students for a a future that will put them in contact with people different from them and require them to adapt to changing situations, both on the job as well as in life in general. People with a well-rounded education will be able to see how events in different fields and places can affect them. With increasing ties with the rest of the world, it is more important than ever to be broadly educated. Those in business must be aware of the various cultures in which they are trying to sell their products and services. Under Communism, Eastern Europe higher education focused primarily on vocational training. Despite this, the system failed.
— Kevin Brennan, Contemporary World
The following courses are among those often taken by incoming freshmen. These CORE
classes are designed to strengthen the knowledge and skills that will help you in
other areas of study. For courses that are offered in a sequence, such as Survey
of the Bible and Interpreting the Bible, you should plan to take the first one unless
you have already earned credit for the equivalent course either at another college/university
or through credit by examination (AP, CLEP, IB, etc.).
CORE 1002: OBU Connections (2 credit hours)
This course will introduce first-year students to higher education in the context of a liberal arts education. Students will develop skills necessary for academic success, explore Ouachita’s mission as a Christian college in the liberal arts tradition, and work creatively and collaboratively with peers on an intensive and interdisciplinary study of a topic chosen by the instructor.
CORE 1023: The Contemporary World (3 credit hours)
In this course students examine current events and their geographical, cultural, and political contexts. Activities include ongoing reading of a major newspaper and working with maps.
CORE 1043: Composition I (3 credit hours)
This writing course is designed to help students understand and practice effective writing, including correct grammar and mechanics.
CORE 1113: Survey of the Bible and CORE 1123: Interpreting the Bible (3 credit hours each)
The two Bible courses in the CORE provide students with a solid foundation in Biblical studies. The first course surveys the redemptive story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, emphasizing how that story shapes the Christian’s worldview and affects life decisions. The second focuses on developing the skills necessary for valid interpretation and application of the Bible.
Foreign Language: Students are encouraged to complete the two-semester foreign language requirement within the first year or two at Ouachita. Languages offered include French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. Students who have exceptional language skills may take the Foreign Language Exemption Exam, and if they score high enough, the foreign language requirement will be waived for them.
Additional CORE Classes to Consider
The following CORE classes are numbered at the sophomore level but are also open to freshmen. If you have already completed or will receive credit for some of the required courses listed above, you may want to consider taking one of these courses.
CORE 2213: Western Civilization in Global Context (3 credit hours)
Students will complete a survey of Western civilization from the prehistoric era to the present, with special emphasis on the relationship between political, religious, social, economic, and ethical movements in the West and other major world civilizations.
CORE 2233: World Literature (3 credit hours)
Students will read and write about diverse texts from multiple literary traditions with particular attention to their genres and historical-cultural contexts.
CORE 2334: Scientific Inquiry (4 credit hours)
Students will be introduced to big ideas in natural science, will learn how scientific information is gathered and analyzed, and will use this knowledge to interact with issues of contemporary scientific importance. Prerequisite: Completion of the Analytic and Quantitative Reasoning menu.
OBU Connections helps students understand Ouachita's approach to education as part of a tradition that dates all the way back to ancient Greece. In that tradition, free men were educated differently from slaves or servants. At Ouachita, we seek to combine the best insights of the liberal arts tradition with a Christian perspective on our world. In other words, we educate students for a meaningful life, not merely for a job. This course introduces students to that way of thinking about education.
In the Senior Seminar course, students spend a semester in readings and discussion of how the CORE curriculum relates to their major area of study. The following is an essay written by Amber White in the Humanities Senior Seminar.
More Fully Human
Liberal education provides an opportunity to steward life more effectively by becoming more fully a human person in the image of God, by seeing life whole rather than fragmented, by transcending the provincialism of our place in history, our geographic location, or our job (...) It is an opportunity to find meaning for everything I am and do (...) I would think it worthwhile if a student, when asked what he learned in college, could reply, “I learned what it is to see and think and act like the human person God made me to be. (Holmes 36)
I begin with this quotation from Arthur F. Holmes’ The Idea of a Christian College for two reasons. First, because I read this book for one of my mass communications courses. Upon hearing this, one of the first questions that might arise in someone’s mind is, “Why would you read about THAT in a communications course?” But through my four years in a liberal arts curriculum,
I have come to see that it is just this sort of integration among the disciplines that should be a recognizable and encouraged aspect of a liberal arts education. Today, as a student at a liberal arts institution, I have been prompted to respond to two other questions of a similar nature: What does our text for this course, Ravitch’s The American Reader, have to do with mass communications? And how can the ideas from that book, as well as the broader ideas from Ouachita’s CORE curriculum, be integrated with what I have learned about mass communications?
As I examine the works collected by Diane Ravitch in this text, it becomes apparent that these pieces play an important role in the past, the present, and the future. It is in this aspect that I believe mass communications can be most easily understood as relating to these historic readings. In this course, we spent a lot of time discussing how one might choose works for a collection such as this one. What makes this poem or that speech rise above the others as influential and timeless? Mass communications is an integral part of this selection process because of its role in disseminating information. Much of the reason these works are so important is because they were made available to the masses. If they had not been distributed to the public, they could not have influenced the public. Here is where we can see that mass communications influences the past, present, and future.
By explaining th past and deciphering the events of the present for the public, the spread of information by mass communications - whether of a journalistic or public relations orientation - impacts the people and the events of the future. In this way, connections between mass communications and any historical readings, but especially those that have been particularly influential, become apparent. Investigating the past and present with a scrutinizing eye is a crucial part of mass communications and studying history, and this examination is what will help us rise above the errors of the past more effectively in the future. In order to study these historical works, a critical reading is necessary. And learning to read effectively is a vital aspect of studying mass communications. Reading allows us to meet with the great minds of the past, but in order to gain the most from that meeting, we must constantly question as we read. This questioning is at the heart of true learning.
These finds can lead to a discussion of the ways mass communications are connected with the greater ideas of the liberal arts curriculum. This connection is more than just an interaction between the information in the fields - it is an integration of the underlying truths in every academic discipline. An interaction would imply a mere sharing of information, which obviously occurs between mass communications and other fields. Journalists must write about something, and that includes not only history, as discussed above, but also the arts, science, politics, business, and the list goes on. This is one of the primary reasons that mass communications is taught at a liberal arts institution: informing the public requires understanding information from every arena. But an integration of fields involves finding consistencies among the philosophies at the base of each discipline. In searching for answers about the “practical” purpose in studying subjects such as history or philosophy, Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s minister of munitions, found his own answer. After twenty-seven years of reflection in prison, Speer is reported to have said that people “need to be reminded that it is only here that fundamental questions are asked - what is a person, what is a good society, what are the proper ends of civilization, and so on” (Holmes 40). It is at the base of these subjects that integration is developed. And the place this integration begins is with questioning.
The fact that we are even asking questions about the interplay between the ideas in the CORE curriculum proves that studying in a liberal arts institution has its benefits, one of the most important being that the students learn to ask questions. In fact, this questioning can be broken down into four more specific skills learned while studying in a liberal arts setting. These skills are some of the bases of all study, as well as the ideas that help us discover further connections among the disciplines. Through research, analysis, interpretation, and composition, we learn to think mo responsibly and carefully.
Research is an inevitable part of academics. And because it is necessary in every field, it teaches us about connections among different subjects. When learning to be an effective researcher, students find ways to not only search for a tiny piece of information, but to look at the body of information as a whole, comparing and contrasting different aspects of the topic. Research was necessary as Ravitch compiled her book, it is necessary in working in the field of journalism, and it is also necessary in every other discipline. This is a skill that is not only a common factor among the fields, but would also allow a person to do any necessary investigation to help them find further connections among broader issues. Analysis is what guards research. It encourages a student to not only collect information but also to examine that information in light of the topic itself and the greater body of knowledge. In learning to analyze research material, a student can carry that skill into other areas of life as well. Analyzing develops an eye that looks for details, like the fine focus on a microscope.
Interpretation makes information applicable. While analysis looks at things close up, interpretation looks at the bigger picture. It finds ways to apply the information to a given situation. This skill is necessary in any field, whether we are interpreting world events for the masses in communications, or interpreting scripture as we study the Bible.
Composition tests the student’s grasp of information and develops yet another outlet for learning. Writing clarifies thought and teaches us to use words to express ideas more effectively. Holmes explains the importance of composition: To write is to become articulate, to express what I feel and explain why I feel as I do, to expound, to argue, to offer good reasons, to explore relationships, to have a sense of the whole, to set things in total context. To teach a person to read and to write is to teach him to think for himself, to develop more fully the possession of his God-given powers. He becomes in fact, not just in possibility, a reflective, thinking, being. (Holmes 31)
A reflective, thinking being. Each of the aforementioned skills creates a person who is more capable of being a responsible steward of the mind God has given. A student of the liberal arts becomes more fully human. I base this statement on my belief that God’s mandate for humans is to see truth. A liberal education provides an opportunity to see all as a whole. This encompassing worldview takes a long range view of truth and shapes the understanding and values of students.
As we face the end of our days at Ouachita, which includes the end of the often-dreaded CORE courses, I believe we should take the suggestion once again of Arthur F. Holmes’ treatise. He says, “The question to ask about education is not ‘What can I do with it?’ That is the wrong question because it concentrates on instrumental values and reduces everything else to a useful art. The right question is rather ‘What can it do to me?’” (Holmes 29). As we continue the practice of constantly questioning, we can only benefit from asking “What did that stuff do to me?” “What is it doing to me now?” and “What can it do to me in the future?” While the answers may not be clear, the asking and searching will be our continuing education throughout life.