The Liberal Arts

The College of Idaho offers a liberal arts education. "Liberal arts" is a frequently misunderstood phrase, and although the liberal arts are variously defined, they represent an educational tradition born in ancient Greece. In its ideal form, a liberal arts education encourages individuals to seek personal foundations for the choices they make as they live their lives, and to pursue intellectual freedom from the constraints of society, history, tradition, and ignorance. Here at The College of Idaho, we take care to introduce students to the disciplines—the arts and sciences—that will empower them to live fully and well.

The College of Idaho continues the tradition of an education based in the liberal arts because we believe such an education enables students to experience curiosity, social responsibility, and inquiry. We believe that a student who is liberally educated recognizes the importance and powers of thinking logically, imaginatively, and independently; writing and speaking forcefully and effectively; framing questions and finding difficult answers creatively; thinking broadly across the lines of traditional academic disciplines; assessing values; and approaching others with understanding and compassion. Through exposure to the liberal arts disciplines—the humanities and fine arts; the social sciences and history; the natural sciences and mathematics—students learn the methods and perspectives of many ways of knowing the world. They become broadly educated and capable of making choices grounded in knowledge.

The Program of Study

Our liberal arts curriculum enables students to develop the versatility of thought and the intellectual self-confidence necessary to be active within their society and culture. While the College recognizes the importance of preparing students for profitable and fulfilling careers, we deliver an education that provides much more than professional competencies. We believe that our curriculum prepares students for a lifetime of learning, for career flexibility, and for careers that do not yet exist. Students who take full advantage of the College's strong academic program, its dedicated faculty and staff, and its vital campus life will have the tools necessary to realize—and to exceed—their career expectations. This is because our curriculum emphasizes the acquisition of many types of learning skills and ways of knowing, fostering the mental flexibility and social adaptability essential to achieving success and finding happiness in the modern world.

The College of Idaho seeks to realize these goals in three ways. The first is by establishing an appropriate curriculum. The curriculum consists of course offerings in over 25 disciplines, from which students may choose majors and minors, independent study and travel programs, field trips, and internships. Students learn through research, analysis, discussion, practice, presentation, creative performance, critical thinking, and writing. Our curriculum features the traditional disciplines, as well as pre-professional programs, business, teacher certification, and innovative interdisciplinary fields such as environmental studies and international political economy. To assure breadth of vision, multi-disciplinary perspective, and a broad set of skills applicable to any endeavor, the faculty has designed the PEAK Curriculum. 

Second, we encourage the development of a community of scholars by offering an intimate and academically supportive college experience. In both formal and informal settings, professors and students have an opportunity to share in the pursuit of knowledge in face-to-face dialogues. Because most classes at the College are small, it is impossible for a student or an instructor to be anonymous. We see this condition as indispensable both to effective learning and to the vitality of our community. 

Third, the academic calendar is intended to help in achieving the College's educational goals by providing a framework within which both innovative and conventional approaches to learning can coexist. During the fall and spring semesters, students engage in 15 weeks of coursework and learning opportunities. Separating these two sessions is our four-week winter term, during which students are immersed in intensive study. The winter term allows for off-campus student opportunities and unique field experiences, in addition to the more traditional learning environment. 

The College of Idaho, both through its curriculum and through our active campus life, strives to be a community that helps students become informed, tolerant individuals who recognize their social responsibilities. We promote learning for a lifetime, recognizing that when students are encouraged to discover their own particular talents—intellectual, artistic, and athletic—they want to shape a world that enables others to discover theirs.