The mission of the Blount Scholars Program is to develop in its students, through study in the liberal arts, the skills and dispositions conducive to their personal growth, career success, and participation in civic life. The conception of liberal arts education informing this mission is at once disciplinary and dispositional—that is, it is defined by both a broad domain of study and an approach toward study itself.
Originally seven in number, the artes liberales were those subjects and skills in classical antiquity that were considered essential for citizens to pursue in order to take an active part in the life of the community. In the contemporary university, the liberal arts have evolved to comprise the disciplines in the humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, arts, and social sciences. Diverse as the disciplines within this domain are, all depend upon, and in turn help foster, the specific skills to which Blount’s curriculum is devoted: those of reflective interpretation, critical thinking (analysis, synthesis, argument) and effective communication (clear, well-organized, and persuasive writing and speaking).
In approaching this broad domain of knowledge, liberal education assumes a particular posture toward learning—one that emphasizes inquiry driven by curiosity and unfettered by the instrumental ambitions of applied study. By providing a complement, rather than an alternative, to applied study, liberal arts education pursues the conviction that the discovery of all new knowledge cannot fail to be useful and to enrich human life, often in ways that cannot be forecast in advance.