Liberal Arts at the Abbey
These insightful videos featuring Dr. David Williams, Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty and Dr. Stephen Shivone, Former Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs & Former Assistant Professor of English, give an inside look at how the Abbey uniquely approaches the Liberal Arts. The Liberal Arts core curriculum is a key facet of a Belmont Abbey College education.
Authors You'll ReadCore Authors
The Core is the heart of an Abbey education. Our over-50 credit core includes courses in the history of Western civilization, the classics of Western literature and political philosophy, rhetoric, the natural and social sciences, the Bible, the fundamentals of Catholic theology, and fine arts.
In addition to selected books of the Old and New Testaments, the following authors will be read.
|Joyce||St. Thomas Aquinas||Milton||Virgil||Locke||Donne|
What is a Core Curriculum? And why does Belmont Abbey College have one?
In our day, college and university education is associated with specialized preparation for a career – and as lucrative a one as possible, in order to pay off the high cost of education! Most students today, with good reason, are concerned about one thing: “What should I major in? What program of classes will get me the farthest in life?” Here, “the farthest” is usually defined in terms of finance and sometimes also in terms of personal job satisfaction and social belonging. There is nothing wrong with this kind of reasoning – in fact we encourage it at Belmont Abbey College by our goal to have you “succeed professionally, and be a blessing to yourselves and others.” But this is not the whole story: we have other goals as well: to have you “lead lives of integrity and become responsible citizens.” This goal points to areas of life known under the names of ethics, politics, and theology. Are these real subjects that can be taught and learned, or are they strictly matters of individual or family-inherited opinion? There are also the Fine Arts (drama, music, creative writing, etc.): does anybody really need to understand them if he is not trying to be an artist himself? What about mathematics – should they be studied by those who “hate” math? Should English, world literature, or history be forced upon those who “hate” to write papers? Should a young adult be required to learn more about fields that will probably never contribute to his or her future income?
The Core Curriculum is Belmont Abbey’s “yes” answer to all these questions. Many students today object to this: a list of “required courses” resembles High School, and sends the message that 17 – 22 year-old persons, living away from their parents, are not yet fully equipped to be their own masters, choosing only those courses that fulfill their own personal dreams, as currently embraced at that particular age. We entirely agree that College should be a place to begin to fulfill your dreams beyond what happened in High School. And one big part of that is filling you with new dreams – by requiring you to study what you may not understand or appreciate. Unlike High School – where requirements are mandated by the civil governments in each state – at the college level, each institution voluntarily chooses its own set of general requirements, to provide a structured education in accord with the vision of that institution. Accreditation pertains primarily to the academic standards of the special subjects: when it comes to the core curriculum, each college is only obliged to remain faithful to its own mission. Core curriculum offerings, therefore, at any college, are a result of faculty competence and availability and the vision of education that guides each particular institution.
Here, finally, is where the larger picture of the “Benedictine and Catholic intellectual tradition” comes into view. Our vision of education at Belmont Abbey College is unique and of durable value because, unlike many other colleges and universities, it is still strongly informed by the past (and ongoing) achievements of the Catholic faith and Benedictine monasticism. For about five or six hundred years in the early history of Europe, groups of monks nestled in the countrysides of every land, went about their daily labors of prayer and farming and study. They led an organized community life for spiritual purposes, and as a necessary foundation for their way of life, preserved the learning of the civilizations of antiquity. With the economic and political growth of Europe, these rural havens of peace and wisdom grew into the urban communities of learning and research and teaching known as the medieval university. The Renaissance and modern science built on that foundation to produce today’s global information culture. There are many sides to this knowledge culture; what keeps it all together? The original collection of “Seven Liberal Arts” as handed down by the Benedictine monks and nuns from A.D. 400 – A.D. 1100, is still, in one way or another, at the core of it all.
Nobody needs a college education to “participate” in that culture today: it is only necessary to have internet service! So — what does Belmont Abbey College offer that is so special? We certainly want to train you to participate in the contemporary, ever-expanding world, because that is the world we live in today. But, in keeping with our vision, we also want you to participate fully and responsibly in that world and have personal, life-long access to the best wisdom inherited from the experience of humankind and the Christian tradition. We offer a safe, secure, and orderly environment for beginning a life of learning, just as the Benedictine monks of old provided for the budding nations of early Europe. Yes, we will ask you study ethics and politics, theology and literature, the arts and basic mathematics, and social and natural science as well. But this time, unlike when you were in High School, you will be building your own world-view with the help of a new community with an ancient vision, shared by young and old. We want to make you mindful – at an important time of your life – of the grandeur, and the fallibility — of being human. Human beings by nature are learners, and a good liberal arts education gives you a boost toward being a life-long learner, that nothing else can impart. At the same time, by choosing a major, you can get started on a particular role you may want to play in life.
Would you like to participate in this kind of intellectual (and moral) training? You’re cordially invited!
Dr. Gerald Malsbary
Director of First-Year Symposium
Core Curriculum for Traditional Students
Music at the Abbey
At Belmont Abbey College our Core Curriculum requires the exploration of the fine arts. From Art to Dance Appreciation you have the opportunity to hone your skills or learn something new. A few notable courses include Ballroom Dancing, Creative Writing, Chorus, Introduction to Film Criticism, Introduction to Art in Western Civilization I, Introduction to Stage Craft, Organ, and Piano.