Yet, I NOW find it hard to claim that I received a liberal education without having an experience like I did at Wartburg West. Until this fall all of these ingredients that build a liberal education – an opening world view and thirst for knowledge – have been fulfilled by reading and studying in a traditional classroom. While it’s no surprise to anyone that higher education can be a slow moving process not many schools are taking steps to try and innovate how students are learning. The exception: Wartburg.
For 32 years Wartburg has been thinking outside of the box and taking an unconventional and equitable approach to innovating liberal learning.
While at Wartburg West I took courses about the intersectionalities of art and diversity, the religious traditions of immigrant communities, and the convergence points of sustainable cities and gained work experience at an internship related to my core major. All of these courses were experiential based and hands on. Rather than doing traditional readings, lectures and notes in the classroom, we did that learning on our own as preparation for guest speakers and site visits meeting with professionals.
We met with a trans activist about her experience in coming out, heard from a Buddhist monk about immigrating to the United States decades ago, and listened to advocates for a growing homeless population in Denver and so much more.
All of the social problems and topics we learned about are real. There are faces that should and can be connected to our knowledge. I know that this empathetic connection to our coursework made the information much more retainable and meaningful than traditional schooling.
I have friends at prestigious universities across the nation – UNC Chapel Hill, Georgetown, American, Columbia, San Jose State – that have not had these opportunities afforded to them, and definitely not at the size and location of Wartburg College.
This past summer I really worried about not being able to compete in the PR job market in a large city after graduating. I pondered needing to transfer to a large university or school in a city in order to be prepared for life after college. Spending a semester in Denver helped me to value the intimacy of relationships that are nurtured at Wartburg and the challenging hands-on content delivered in programs across campus.
My semester ‘out west’ enlightened me to see an expanded world view and understand the lifestyles and beliefs of those unlike myself.
I’d urge anyone interested in liberal learning in a hands-on environment to apply for the program!