Why it Matters

How do we kindle the creative minds of the next generation? By igniting students’ capacity for innovative research, mastery of new fields, freedom of thought, societal leadership and enduring intellectual empowerment. Nothing does that like a great liberal arts education.

We recognize the potential importance of online efficiencies in higher education, but F&M stands for a different proposition—that there is tremendous societal return when undergraduates enjoy the opportunity of serious, personalized learning. Today’s knowledge- driven world requires students to develop their minds for lifetimes of higher-level thinking and learning. We foster these capacities when students work directly and intimately with great scholars, experts and practitioners, and when students immerse themselves in communities that generate, discuss, explore and connect ideas.

Despite all of the attention surrounding Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), we know that students grow much more from directly engaging with scholars and seeing how they think. Small classes and conducting research as part of student-faculty teams allows students to absorb their professors’ methods and moves, their certainties and doubts, and their efforts to factor out bias and place new concepts within landscapes of the known.

Similarly, seminar interactions among classmates with diverse ideas and worldviews require students to contend with other perspectives. They teach students to seek to understand the factors that contribute to how others make decisions, and to respect the complexity of developing constructive solutions to major intellectual, social, ethical or political problems. This kind of growth also happens profoundly through travel courses and study abroad, staples in the F&M educational tradition.

In addition, our distinctive College House System—through which faculty dons and deans partner with students to create rich living-learning communities—provides a stimulating context for students’ intellectual growth and fosters a vibrant intellectual life on campus. These F&M “homes” immediately welcome incoming students to college and academic life, create meaningful and memorable community experiences, encourage learning outside of class, and help students to make the most of their F&M experience. Few colleges offer such a remarkable resource.

The arts, civic engagement, and athletics and recreation also enhance the culture of teaching and learning at F&M. By helping all students discover and deepen their aesthetic sensibilities, we give them new ways of knowing and a resource for life. The way we foster community- based learning invites students to grasp the power of scholarship and discovery to create social change. Likewise, through athletics, we seek to promote the growth of students. We view our coaches as mentors and educators. In an era when much of NCAA Division I athletics has lost educational credibility, we see enduring value in our focus on academic excellence, team play, holistic learning, community, hard work and integrity. On the whole, F&M has a bold history of fostering learning in and out of the classroom, always with the highest aspirations for students.