Welcome to WOU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences!

Welcome back to Western Oregon University! We are happy that you are here, whether you are attending in person, virtually, or through a mix of both. While the time since March 2020 has been fraught with challenges, a continual bright spot for me has been serving our remarkable students, and working with an outstanding team of people who are committed to WOU’s mission of creating “lasting opportunities for student success through transformative education and personalized support.” Even during these ongoing crazy times, we have continued working together toward our shared goal of preparing our students for a future that is successful in all respects—economically, civically and personally.

Under the guidance of learned professors who love what they do, students from many walks of life become part of our vital and thriving community. We have kept that community alive through the innovative use of technology, and we are now once again able to engage in person on this beautiful campus, with technology enhancing our flexibility. Together we study and learn in a wide range of settings, from classrooms to labs, studios, the library, theatre, stage, service learning opportunities, internships/practica, study abroad, and online. Working collaboratively, students learn not only from faculty but also from peers who hail from Oregon, other parts of the U.S., and even the world.

Today when we say “liberal arts,” the phrase refers not to political leanings but to the original Latin root liber, meaning “to become free.” The goal of a “liberal arts education” is to free our minds from the narrowness of our own limited perspectives through the ongoing pursuit of truth. In the process of learning, we deepen our understanding of the world, expand our vision and awareness, and gain a growing sense of what is possible. As stated by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the purpose of a liberal education is to “empower individuals and prepare them to deal with complexity, diversity and change.” At the present historical moment as we cope with increasing diversity, complexity and change, these attributes are more important to cultivate than ever.

During medieval times, a liberal arts education incorporated math and science as well as music, grammar and rhetoric. Today, WOU’s College of LAS keeps that inclusive spirit alive by including a full range of academic disciplines—business, behavioral sciences, computer science, creative arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences. We offer a variety of academic programs, including majors, minors and certificates, along with the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary studies tailored to student interests. Our sister college, the College of Education, offers coursework that pairs well with what we teach in LAS. We encourage you to combine your coursework innovatively in ways that align with your personal interests and prepare you for a productive and meaningful life well beyond your college experience. (For a detailed discussion of why all of our college’s programs are important, please see the messages in the column to your right; click on “Dean’s Message, March 2020.”)

With our emphasis on both breadth and depth of learning, WOU’s students gain both specific and transferable skills. Along with disciplinary expertise, students develop their ability to think deeply and solve problems creatively; engage in deep analysis and reflective inquiry; consider and incorporate multiple points of view; communicate clearly and fluently through both speech and writing; work effectively in teams; and apply ethical judgment to decision-making. Students apply the knowledge they gain in practical settings through individualized opportunities such as service learning, internships and study abroad opportunities. Whatever course of study and field of future work you choose, you will graduate from WOU with the qualities most sought after by today’s employers—the very same qualities that will help you to build a meaningful and rewarding life beyond the workplace, and that will empower you to contribute to the ongoing health, vitality and sustainability of our diverse and rapidly changing society, in your employment path as well as in the other facets of your life.

Every day I feel thankful to be back on this campus, seeing students in our classrooms and public spaces while knowing that we are also serving many additional students online. As always, WOU continues to welcome all students, from a wide range of backgrounds, into our close-knit community. Many here are the first in their families to attend college, carrying forward the hopes and dreams of their loved ones. No matter how you identify as a student—traditional college-age, first-generation, transfer or returning, veteran or international—our faculty and staff are committed to working with you personally to help you successfully complete your college degree. In the College of LAS, we work every day to welcome students from many walks of life and create a place where everybody belongs. Should you be concerned about affordability or other challenges to making your dreams into reality, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the appropriate people to address your needs.

We value our past and present students, and we look forward to welcoming our incoming and returning students and moving together into an increasingly optimistic future. We will continue to work together to develop both knowledge and wisdom, growing as individuals while working to create a healthy, well-functioning society in which everyone is nurtured, valued and encouraged. We look forward to helping you achieve your dreams!

Dr. Kathleen Cassity
Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences