UNC Asheville: cultivating tomorrow’s lifelong learners

Jensen Stephenson
UNC Asheville’s diverse approach to teaching fosters lifelong learners, according to students and faculty. 
Senior Lecturer of education Rodney Reid Chapman said he spent the last 15 years teaching at UNCA and observes the impact of the humanities courses on students.  
“The course’s work gives students a solid background in general knowledge of the world, but far more importantly, at their best, the courses teach students how to think, how to discern bias, how to communicate ideas and how to connect complex ideas across disciplines,” Chapman said. 
Being the only public liberal arts school in North Carolina, UNCA’s holistic approach to education prepares students for many facets of life alongside a career, according to Chapman.
“Our democracy depends upon a knowledgeable, active citizenry. Increasingly, the focus on the program is less about what we know than how we think and communicate. The skills taught within the humanities program at UNCA are the very same skills our nation demands from voters. On perhaps a less idealistic note, a liberal arts education spends less time training students for a particular job, and more time on those skills.  Those skills are transferable to jobs that don’t even exist yet, but will in the coming decades,” Chapman said.
The Princeton Review recognized UNCA as one of the most politically active and LGBTQ+ friendly campuses in the nation in their 2020 edition of The Best 385 Colleges. The humanities courses strengthen this diversity through comprehensive knowledge, the study found.
“As a freshman engineering student, I didn’t initially grasp the full value of the humanities courses at UNCA. The courses don’t propel me toward my major and act as an additional obstacle for graduation. However, as I continue assimilating to the liberal arts philosophy, I can understand the advantages of diversifying thought processes and ideologies,” Cassidy Amon said. 
For  Cassidy Amon and other new students, the 16-hour requirement may appear rigorous, but University officials declare through the mission statement that, UNCA expresses the vitality of the humanities courses through the cultivation of students into lifelong learners.
University officials said the overarching goal is to aid students in clarifying, developing and eventually living their lives while respecting the humanity of others. 
Ryan Jenkins, a senior attending UNCA, said the university’s humanities program challenges students to commit to diversity, but even further diversification could occur. 
“What I will say is that the UNCA humanities program has great potential that isn’t being utilized effectively. Our program’s impact on students could be incredible if we had a variety of humanities courses that touched on more specialized subjects. For example, a humanities course on gender and sex in the sciences would be excellent or increased exposure to non-Western cultures and societies. I often found myself wanting to hear more about the huge advances in the Islamic and Chinese world, but instead had to hear more about the advent of Christianity in Europe. Not to say that these subjects are any less or more important than each other just give them equal time to shine,” Jenkins said.
The Princeton Review ranks UNCA ahead of many higher-learning institutions, in this regard, earning its esteemed status as a nationally ranked university. It holds a unique ability to offer an unparalleled curriculum and lifelong supporters through all departments and alumni make it such a successful college in the UNC system.
“I feel like I get to know a lot of people and hear a lot of perspectives I don’t normally get to hear. It’s always important to interact and debate with other disciplines. In the real world, many issues become multidisciplinary, and I feel better prepared to approach and interact with those spaces,” Jenkins said.