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Curriculum and Concentrations

To earn the B.A. degree with a major in Liberal Studies, students must develop and complete a coherent curriculum with a concentration of at least 30 semester hours (15 of which may be transfer credit). The chosen concentration is designed to ensure depth of learning beyond the introductory level.

  1. Psychology and Human Development
  2. Arts, Writing, and Literature
  3. Global Studies, History, and Culture
  4. Environmental Studies and Sustainability
  5. Education
  6. Self-Designed

The Six Concentrations: Conceptual Framework and Core Knowledge

Union Institute & University offers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. All students will earn a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Students choose a concentration within that major. Each concentration addresses five dimensions of learning appropriate to the concentration: Methods, Theories and Concepts, History/Context, Controversies and Application. These dimensions are referenced in each of the concentration descriptions below, some directly and some indirectly. For further information, please consult a core faculty member in the concentration.


Demonstrate understanding of the social context and/or historical background of the concentration as it has emerged and is practiced.

Theories and Concepts:

Demonstrate comprehension of theories, concepts, questions, and/or viewpoints relevant to the concentration.


Understand and apply basic methods of inquiry relevant to the concentration.


Recognize contemporary and historical controversies relevant to the concentration.


Demonstrate an ability to apply principles and methods of the concentration in a real world setting.

Students are encouraged to think not only about their concentration but also about all their independent studies and seminars in terms of these dimensions. Even if the study is not part of one’s concentration, it will still address theories, concepts, methods, etc. in the topic area. Although all five outcomes will probably not be addressed each term in each study or seminar, a study or seminar ordinarily will address two or three of these outcomes, depending on how the topic and its study are structured.

Arts, Writing, and Literature

Conceptual Framework:

This concentration, which includes both the visual and written arts, is appropriate for students with a studio focus in writing and/or visual art as well as for students focusing on literature and art history/visual culture without a studio component. Knowledge of literature and art deepen our understanding of the human experience. In part, depth of understanding comes from the knowledge that art and literature exist in a social context. For example, if a student were to study the writing, drawing, collage, and performance arts of Europe in 1917, comprehending the work might require looking at the ways in which those artists and writers were influenced by World War I and the Second Industrial Revolution. Similarly, students develop a lens for understanding their own work as influenced by the social context in which they live.

Core knowledge:

A concentration in the arts, writing, and literature requires extended exploration (30 credits) in the student’s general area of focus. Whether exploring the visual or written arts, each student becomes aware of the range of forms and genres as s/he discovers her/his own voice. In studio studies, media might include drawing, sculpture, collage, photography, performance, new media, and music, among others. Forms of writing might include poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, and journalism, among others. Students learn to view and/or read with depth and critical perspective, reflect on form and content, analyze literature and art in a historical context, and articulate their perceptions. The fields encompassed by this concentration are broad and interdisciplinary; students may well consider connections to philosophy, psychology, anthropology, feminism, and popular culture, among other disciplines, as they relate to the student’s own ideas and questions.

Representative Outcomes:

  • In creative (studio) studies in writing and visual arts, students demonstrate deep engagement and technical development in creative work. Deep engagement is evident in a completed body of work that indicates a disciplined creative practice and consequent technical growth.
  • In literature and art history/visual culture studies, students demonstrate comprehension of the relevant literary genre or period in art history/visual culture. This is indicated through a student’s academic writing, through faculty-student dialogue, and through presentation and critique.
  • Students demonstrate an understanding that the visual and written arts exist in a social context. In addition, students demonstrate an understanding of relevant controversies in their area of inquiry by expressing different perspectives on a topic and presenting their own conclusions backed by evidence.

Degree: B.A. - Liberal Studies
Credits: 120
Transfer up to 78 credits
Min Time: 42 credits (3.5 terms)
Start Dates: Jan, May, Sept

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