‘Not your grandparents’ liberal arts degree,’ says arts dean
In an era when there’s increasing emphasis on students to focus on science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields—UBC’s Okanagan campus is relaunching its Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with an eye to making it even more relevant to today’s changing world.
Currently accepting students for the 2021 academic year, the newly structured BA is designed to be responsive to students’ needs and to focus on learning in areas that are important for industry when hiring graduates. These include communications, critical thinking, scientific and numeric literacy, and Indigenous understanding.
“We’ve done away with the idea of so-called ‘breadth requirements’ in favour of teaching the core skills that employers are clearly looking for,” says Bryce Traister, dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and acting dean of the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UBC Okanagan—the two faculties that are together offering the new degree.
Traister points to the Indigenous content requirement in particular as an example how the new program is adapting and preparing the newest generation of graduates to grapple with some of the most important issues facing society.
“By introducing an Indigenous studies requirement, UBCO is joining a small handful of universities in Canada working to realize the promise of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission process through education—an important step in creating lasting change for our communities,” says Traister. “Not only do we have a moral imperative to explore and teach these ideas, but the jobs of today and those of tomorrow are going to depend on a workforce with a deep understanding and fulsome appreciation for them.”
But Traister is quick to point out that Indigenous content is just one element of the new BA program. With a long list of courses on offer that he says didn’t exist 20 years ago, students today will benefit from the variety, flexibility and choice that will make their degree more relevant than ever.
“Take a full BA in gender and sexuality studies or race and cultural studies, for example,” he says. “These weren’t available just a generation ago but it’s hard to imagine a subject area more relevant to the working conditions of women and men today, or to our collective engagement with racial inequality and justice.”
While Traister says that the STEM fields are equally important to addressing society’s challenges, it’s when science and engineering are combined with the arts and humanities that humanity can reach its full potential.
“UBCO’s Bachelor of Arts degree has been rethought to do exactly that,” he adds. “Graduates will be taught to think critically and creatively, to learn from the past and re-imagine the future—better, greener, safer and more just.”
“There’s never been a more exciting time to pursue a degree in the liberal arts.”