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Paul Licht, Chair of Deans at College of Letters & Science

posted November 18, 1998

"I like the idea of preserving liberal arts education," says Paul Licht, now more than four months into his new job as chair of deans for the campus' largest academic unit, the College of Letters & Science.

A professor of integrative biology specializing in endocrinology, Licht is dean of the division of biological sciences, one of the six divisions that make up L&S.

"I feel strongly that future scientists and doctors should receive a general education in the arts and humanities," he says.

As a scientist, Licht thinks liberal arts students, conversely, need a grounding in the sciences. "It would be unthinkable to consider oneself an educated person without that exposure," he says.

"A liberal education was the original concept of a university," Licht notes. "The focus on the disciplines is a more recent development."

The fact that people typically make numerous career changes during their lives makes a well-rounded education that much more important, Licht believes. In his multiple roles at L&S, he meets with hundreds of alumni, "very few of whom are doing what they originally majored in."

How do you prepare students for such a world? he asks. "You teach them to think. That may be more important than their expertise in their original disciplines."

Students appreciate the breadth requirements, Licht believes. He attends all of campus' biological sciences commencements. "Almost every student speaking in the last few years has made reference to how important the non-science courses were," he says.


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