11 am rolls around sooner rather than later, and I head over to my first day as a Liberal Studies student. I stumble late into a room that seats 25 (tops) and already recognize familiar faces. Instantly, I feel the warm fuzzy feeling inside that is the comfort of going to a small school.
Many others and myself received an email back in December that began with a “Congratulations!” After the initial excitement of learning that we were accepted to our dream school, a strange reality settled in as we read the email. “Liberal Studies Program.” What the fuck is that?
After months of trying to set reasonable expectations, I find myself attending the first week of classes for the next two years of my life. And to be completely honest…
I love it.
Based on everything I’ve read, it’s pretty much impossible not to be skeptical about NYU’s Liberal Studies Core Program. My previous education about it came from an NYU Local article, several College Confidential posts, and the not-so-informative LSP FAQ page. However, the stigma has since improved since Local has last covered the issue. This year students had the opportunity to apply directly to Liberal Studies. Some of us just checked a box that stated, “yes, you may place me in another program”; others apparently selected Liberal Studies. Many of my peers intend on continuing the Global Liberal Studies track and earn their bachelor’s degree in GLSP.
As a freshman in the program, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the way professors handle the curriculum. I suggest that all prospective students utilize the wonderful “Rate My Professor” site as they register for classes. It’s already clear to me that the class dramatically changes based on the professor. For instance, my Social Foundations course is taught by a 66-year-old man named Lawrence Watkins, who really has no interest in the grading policy. Rather, he prefers to allow the classic texts we read to inscribe themselves onto “our hearts” rather than our pens to paper. On the other hand, my writing professor, Amy Wilkinson, insists we actively take notes on our assigned readings. Neither is right nor wrong in their approach. One trait all of my professors share is their passion for the subject they teach.
The excitement I felt on my first day of classes Tuesday has not died down. I suppose it may be the freshman fervor of attending a university where other students are serious about their education, the small setting of Liberal Studies, or the fact that, unlike my dorm, my classes are air-conditioned. To think I was once skeptical!
As far as the workload is concerned, it is much like any other freshman curriculum. To be frank, there is a lot of work. A balanced student knows to try to get the work done as soon as possible. For me, that means staying in and getting it done Monday through Thursday and letting loose Friday through Sunday. By Wednesday, I will have already read three books for my classes – that’s three more than I ever bothered to finish in AP Lit! It’s manageable, of course, but certainly not the joke of a program many have made it out to be in the past.
That’s not to say that those in the program don’t have a sense of humor about it. My professor told us on day one that his course teaches nothing useful, and if anything, we will be able to namedrop a whole bunch at cocktail parties. Yet he insisted that there is merit in learning the “great classics.” NYU is not the only institution to encourage this type of study, with many other Liberal Arts schools following suit, such as Brown, Columbia, and Georgetown.
When other students ask what program I’m in, I initially wasn’t sure if I should proudly smile as I state “Liberal Studies,” or if I should chuckle and scoff at the program’s name. Is it something to be proud of? Or are we really the dumb kids? I sat back and watched in the beginning as people reacted to others’ declaration that they were in LSP. Other freshmen treat it as any other program. “Oh, cool.” That’s right – no one cares you’re in LSP as much as they don’t care you’re in CAS, Tisch, etc. It’s simply a way of awkwardly starting conversation, not making secret judgments.
Just as any other program at NYU has its perks, so does LSP. We are allowed to explore our options for two years for a small cover charge of 120K. We had extraordinary Welcome Week events, including no free food and fifteen minutes for all thousand of us to meet with our academic advisors. Oh, and our fascinating 650-page “mandatory” summer reading was a blast, too.
But seriously speaking, LSP has yet to let me down despite its kinks. My professors already know my name, and my classmates and I are already learning from each other. The small setting is perfect for discussion-based classes. I may not have signed on directly to this program, but I have yet to regret agreeing to it. As we continue to unveil the truth behind NYU’s Liberal Studies Core Program, we discover an intriguing path of education before us.
Plus, we get to graduate with an associate’s degree in Liberal Studies in addition to our eventual bachelor’s. Who doesn’t love an extra degree?