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Liberal Studies: The Creation of Life-Long Learners

By Dr. Tom McMorrow, Liberal Studies Program Director

February 10, 2020

Given the complex and ever-changing relationship between scientific, technological, and economic challenges on the one hand, and political, social, and cultural challenges on the other, the knowledge, skills and ability to understand and address that complexity are more important assets than ever before.

According to a 2015 report by the British Council, “55% of leaders are liberal arts grads. The social sciences and humanities make up more than half of bachelor’s degrees among current professional leaders with higher education qualifications, across 30 countries and all sectors.”

This is why we’ve created the Liberal Studies program, Ontario Tech’s latest BA.

As a student in this program, you build your own degree by choosing the courses that interest you across our existing programs such as Political Science, Legal Studies, Criminology, Communications and Digital Media Studies and Forensic Psychology.

A specialization tailored to you

Students have the option of pursuing two different specializations, allowing them to focus on social justice leadership or technology and society. Marshall McLuhan once described technology as “extensions of our own bodies, of our own faculties”. Things like clothing, housing, wheels and stirrups but also Instagram accounts, weaponized drones and ticket bots, bear this out.  As “an extension of human power,” technology is something we may act through and with. But we also experience technology as an apparatus of control—something that acts upon us. 

From Marx to Nietzche to Foucault, it has been observed that technology may serve to alienate workers, render the fruits of labour anonymous and impersonal, and portend significant but unknowable spiritual ramifications. Meanwhile, on a material level, it is trite to observe how quickly a novel convenience morphs into what feels like a necessity—whether it is running-water in your house or an iPhone in your pocket. How do we get out of the way of technological innovation? How do we keep technology from smothering our own flourishing as human beings? Integrating science and technology with humanities and social sciences has civic and economic value. Hence Ontario Tech’s mission to be leaders in promoting “tech with a conscience”.

With advances in Artificial Intelligence transforming the face of industry, questions about the social dimension and human agency have assumed new urgency and importance. What do climate change, electoral politics, Instagram, newspaper paywalls, incarceration rates, discriminatory funding for Indigenous kids in care, tax rates, Charter rights, and social class structures have to do with higher education? What relevance do they have to you as a student, a family member, a member of society?

A Liberal Studies BA empowers students with the skills and attributes that they will need to adapt and thrive in a dynamic employment environment. Strengthening your capacity for self-direction, written and verbal communication skills, social understanding and critical thinking ensures you will be ready to lead in a demanding changing workplace in either the private or public sector. It is vital to recognize the civic value of this kind of undergraduate program. Developing an informed and critical view of one’s educational experiences is crucial to developing as socially-engaged, life-long learners.

Learn more about the Liberal Studies Program