August 29, 2016

by Bob Keyes

PORTSMOUTH – Great Bay Community College has added more options for college students seeking to pursue studies in the Liberal Arts.

With the fall semester, Great Bay adds two more associate degrees in the Liberal Arts, with concentrations in History and English, broadening the school’s academic choices and continuing its ongoing expansion of the program overall. Great Bay has added degrees in Fine Arts and Psychology in the past two years, as well.

These efforts affirm the College’s commitment to preparing a range of students for the professions, civic participation, and life in general, said Paul Petritis, Great Bay’s Vice President of Academic Affairs. Students who take classes in History, English, the Fine Arts and Social Sciences are exposed to complex ideas, learn to think critically, increase their aesthetic awareness, and think deeply from many perspectives, he said.

These are essential skills – the ability to listen well, distill, analyze, and synthesize information, and communicate complicated ideas effectively. There is great value for individuals and society in teaching students to write well, appreciate great literature and understand the course of human relationships, Petritis said. “There’s a universality to the Liberal Arts that is worthwhile,” he said. “A background in Liberal Arts helps students think critically and respond to life’s challenges with insight, confidence, and resourcefulness.”

These efforts reflect Great Bay’s interest in helping students develop a strong sense of connection with the disciplines and enhance camaraderie among students. The new degrees bolster and refine Great Bay’s existing curriculum, and are designed to provide a  structured foundation of required and suggested courses, as well as related courses that satisfy transfer requirements and general education cores. The degrees provide clear pathways to four-year colleges and universities where Great Bay has transfer agreements.

Liberal Arts cover the traditional general education areas and courses, including English, Math, Humanities and the Sciences. A Liberal Arts education is rooted in the classics, and develops the skills a person needs to function in society by exposing them to a variety of disciplines and modes of inquiry.

A Liberal Arts education fosters skills such as critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge, said Dr. Rick Walters, English and Humanities chair. Many Great Bay students identify as Liberal Arts majors, Walters said. Students are required to meet Liberal Arts course requirements by taking gateway courses such as College Composition, Critical Thinking and Math, and choosing electives from other Liberal Arts disciplines. “Over the past year or so we have been working to strengthen Liberal Arts and help students navigate their way through a Liberal Arts program more quickly and efficiently,” Walters said.

New concentrations in Psychology, English, Fine Arts and History give students clearly defined paths toward transfer and a two-year degree. “By virtue of the transfer articulation agreements we have with dozens of four-year schools, students are assured that their course work and credits are valued the same as those from a four-year school,” Walters said.

Through the English department, students can take classes in Composition, Creative Nonfiction, Technical Writing, Literature, and other Humanities courses and electives. They will learn to write well, think critically and communicate effectively, Walters said.

While Great Bay offers introductory Literature courses for the general student, English majors take more specialized courses such as African American Literature, Women’s Literature, and Literary Analysis. Literature survey courses and specialized content areas expose students to writing, thought, and culture.

Patricia Corbett, Chair of the Social Sciences Department, said the Social Science courses provide classes for specific majors. For example, all Nursing majors are required to take a Psychology course called Human Growth and Development. Social Science also has a stand-alone Psychology degree and a History concentration. The curriculum is under constant review, Corbett said. In the year ahead, the Sociology Department will be reviewed, which may result in another new associate degree or concentration.

Courses are evaluated and revised on an ongoing basis, particularly with an eye toward the expectations of four-year schools for incoming transfer students, as well as the demands on students in technical fields. As Liberal Arts concentrations grow, the school will add and adjust courses to best serve the academic needs of students, Walters said.

The school’s attention to the Liberal Arts is complemented by its commitment to preparing students for careers and the workforce. Providing a strong Liberal Arts focus helps the college to serve a wide range of needs, Petritis said.